Slow Progress with a Silver LiningA recent look at the status of early childhood education in this country demonstrates a lot of good intentions, but poor follow-through.
Since 2014, a total of 924 early childhood education bills were introduced by state legislatures. Of these bills proposed, most of them represented small moves towards public preschool and more childcare availability to a larger range of students.
These small steps and slow progress in early childhood education is consistent with history. At the pace at which we've been moving continues, "it would take about 75 years for states to reach 50% enrollment at age 4, and 150 years to reach 70% enrollment" (Ed Week). The opposition to proposed bills has been due to costs of starting new programs and concerns over the government's involvement in the lives of young children.
While there has been hesitation to fund and build new programs, there is a silver lining, as many states have made efforts to expand pre-existing early education and childcare programs. The most progress has been made in Indiana, Mississippi and NYC, but there are many states that have made notable progress.
- Massachusetts: Increased spending on ECE by $14.7 million
- Alabama: Increased spending on ECE by $27.5 million
- Washington: Increased spending on ECE by $98 million
- California: Increased spending on ECE by $220 million
- Minnesota: Increased spending on ECE by $279 million
The most significant move though made in the area of early childhood education came from North Dakota. The state created new programs to provide vouchers for preschool for low-income four-year-olds. North Dakota remains the only state to implement an entirely new program, allowing for over 3,000 children to attend preschool.
While there are some good things happening, we still need more. We still have a ways to go until every child has the opportunity to get their education off on the right foot. With 924 bills proposed, the future of early education is looking brighter, but "if all the legislative proposals to expand early-childhood-care and early-education programs...had passed, the nation would be entering a new era of near-universal preschool for young children" (Ed Week).