Early Learning Fellows Program

Early Learning Fellows Program



Early Learning Fellows logoThe National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is pleased to announce a year-long Early Learning Fellows program for state legislators and staff. States have been leading efforts to improve the quality of child care, implementing preschool and innovative ways to support families with young children across the age spectrum from birth to kindergarten and into the early grades. They are also addressing challenges with governance, financing, data systems and teacher training/professional development. Scientific and evaluation research provide new insights into both child development and programs that are showing results. Federal initiatives, such as the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge and the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting, will boost early childhood and home visiting funds in the coming years. We are pleased to offer a legislative fellows program to legislators and legislative staff at no cost. NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows program is made possible by grants from the Alliance for Early Success, the Bezos Family Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation.


This endeavor, now starting a fourth year, is designed to support legislators and legislative staff who are experienced or emerging leaders on early childhood and early learning issues. The program is geared toward those chairing or serving on human services, education or appropriations committees who want to expand their knowledge and learn from other legislators and experts across the country. Legislatures have been addressing program and policy issues such as providing high-quality child care and prekindergarten, financing strategies, teacher professional development, family support issues like home visiting,  and early childhood governance challenges in their states. Fellows will have the opportunity to be part of a peer learning community with other legislators and to engage with research and policy experts who are leaders in the field. Fellows will participate in a kick off and final meeting as well as two virtual seminars throughout the year. In addition, NCSL will be available to provide background research, testimony, bill drafting ideas or other research to support your efforts.

The program will:

  • Build knowledge among legislators and staff about new research and policy
  • Promote exchange of ideas and solutions related to early learning, the early achievement gap, and many other issues
  • Introduce and connect legislators to other legislative leaders
  • Provide Fellows with a practical early learning plan they can use in their state
  • Facilitate access to leading researchers and policy experts

Fellows Highlight Section

Since the Fellows program began in 2011 NCSL has tried to capture quotes, ideas and plans that Fellows have related to the field of early care and education. This section is to highlight the great work that Fellows have done and are currently doing.

Additional quotes and stories coming soon. Have something to add email

  • A quote from Representative Mary Gile (D) New Hampshire participant in the first class
    Rep. Mary Gile of New HampshireThe NCSL Early Learning Fellows Program provided opportunities to learn about cutting edge research and best practices in Early Childhood Education from experts in Academia and public school districts. Meetings and webinars offered stimulating, inspiring and affirming information from both theoretical and practical perspectives. I especially appreciated meeting and working with legislative colleagues from across the nation.

  • A quote from Senator Deb Soholt (R) South Dakota participant in the second class
    Photo of Sen. SoholtI have enjoyed the opportunity of being part of this group and working with political friends from around the country. The rich information learned at the May 2013 meeting was immediately put to use…and I truly appreciated the contact to NCSL and experts to deepen my knowledge of early care issues.

  • A quote from Representative Vernon Sykes (D) Ohio participant in the second class
    Photo of Rep. SykesIt was truly wonderful to meet in person, people from around the country that have the same agenda…. supporting access to early childhood education.

  • A quote from Senator Kate Sullivan (NP) Nebraska participant in the third class
    Senator Kate Sullivan of NebraskaThe Fellows program has been a unique and rewarding experience in so many ways:  learning from and networking with colleagues from other states, hearing about research and cutting-edge information on early learning, and (most of all) applying all of this to actual steps to take in our respective states. Great action-oriented program.

  • A quote from Representative Terri Collins (R) Alabama participant in the third class
    Rep. Terri Collins of AlabamaIt has been an honor to be part of the Fellows group. At our first face-to-face meeting in May 2014 in Denver I found the information presented and site visit to the Educare program interesting and even inspiring. One of the most interactive webinars that I have ever participated in was the June 2014 Fellows webinar where Steve Barnett talked about pre-K. Being from Alabama I have a lot to add to a conversation about pre-K and felt as though I was able to do so on this webinar. I look forward to the remaining face-to-face meeting and final webinar as a Fellow.

Early Learning Fellows Legislative Corner

Fellows blue banner with image of children and capitolAs a way to keep all Fellows connected with one another and to highlight the terrific work being done in your state. NCSL staff will  periodically highlight a Fellow and the work they are doing.

Early Learning Fellows Related Blog Posts

Early Learning Fellow Selection Process

Step 1:
Annually toward the start of the New Year, NCSL sends out an Early Learning Fellows program description and nomination form to the legislative leadership office in your state. Leaders nominate up to three legislators that they believe would benefit from and add to the Early Learning Fellows program. Sample nomination form

Step 2:
All nominees are then sent an Early Learning Fellows application which includes an explanation of the Fellows Program and a section with questions about the applicant. Applications are due by a specific date, which is always noted on the application itself. Sample application

Step 3:
NCSL staff carefully read through all submitted applications. Fellows are selected based on their application responses with attention given to regional and party participation. (NCSL typically receives many more applications than we are able to accept into the program).

Step 4:
Selected Fellows receive a confirmation letter inviting them to participate in the program. Selected Fellows are asked to respond to the invitation in a specific time frame and either accept or decline the invitation to participate as an Early Learning Fellow. Selected Fellows are asked to commit to attending the two in-person meetings and the two webinar presentations. It is important that selected Fellows that accept the invitation to participate are able to attend both in-person meetings and webinars.

Step 5:
Attend meetings and participate as an Early Learning Fellow.

Step 6:
At the close of each year Early Learning Fellows become alumni of the program and join a large network with other such colleagues. As an alumnus you receive invitations to participate in content specific webinars and other timely pieces of information from NCSL staff.


  • Each step of the process has a specific deadline, which is boldly indicated.
  • In order to be considered you must meet the annually determined deadlines.
  • NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows program is made possible by grants from the Alliance for Early Success, Bezos Family Foundation and Heising-Simons Foundation. Since this program is grant funded class size is limited and applicants must complete each of the above noted steps.

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