The NCSL Blog


By Alison May

What is NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows program all about?

It is the premier program created and hosted by NCSL's Early Care and Education project for the purpose of educating and discussing children’s issues ranging from birth through age 8 with legislators and staff from around the country and territories.

The program began in 2011 through a grant by the Alliance for Early Success, garnered rave reviews from participants and moved forward with new classes each year.

Early Learning Fellows - 2013 Final Mtg (Wash DC, Dec 6-7, 2013) (224)
The 2013 Early Learning Fellows class gathered for their final meeting in Washington, D.C., in December.

What is the experience of being an NCSL Early Learning Fellow like?

Senator Deb Soholt (R) South Dakota said it best when highlighting the importance of the Fellows program to her and her legislative work in South Dakota.

“I have enjoyed the opportunity of being part of this group and working with political friends from around the country," she said. "The rich information learned at the May 2013 meeting was immediately put to use in South Dakota and I truly appreciated the contact to NCSL and experts to deepen my knowledge of early care issues.”


NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows program is dedicated to:

  • Building knowledge among legislators about new research and policy
  • Promoting an exchange of ideas and solutions related to early learning, the early achievement gap, and many other issues
  • Introducing and connecting legislators to other legislative leaders
  • Providing Fellows with practical information they can use in their state
  • Facilitating access to leading researchers and policy experts

Since its inception, the aim of the program has been to support legislators and legislative staff who are experienced or emerging leaders on early childhood and early learning issues. Issues of focus include child care, pre-K, home visiting and system elements such as teacher training, assessment and accountability, data systems and governance. The program is geared specifically toward those who serve as chairs on human services or education committees or who want to expand their knowledge and learn from other legislators and experts from across the country.

The 2011-2012 Early Learning Fellows class was composed of 30 legislators and six staff and included a kickoff meeting and four virtual meeting webinars. This page contains all the Information pertaining to this first fellows class.

The 2013 Early Learning Fellows class was composed of 34 legislators and one staffer, and included two face-to-face meetings and two webinars. The kick off meeting was in May, followed by webinars in July and September and a final meeting in December. This page contains all information pertaining to the second fellows class. Two face-to-face meetings allowed for more interaction during the intensive program and worked well.

The 2014 Early Learning Fellows class will be selected early in 2014. The program will include a kickoff meeting in Denver in mid-May and a final meeting at the Legislative Summit in Minneapolis in late August. In addition to the two face-to-face meetings, the 2014 class of fellows will include a webinar in late June and late September. The process to become a fellow begins with leadership in the states nominating candidates, who complete an application, followed by selection based on interest and commitment to the topic. For additional information visit NCSL's fellows homepage or contact Alison May.

Alison May is staff coordinator for NCSL's Children and Families Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.