The NCSL Blog


By Alison May

NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows class of 2014 heard a presentation on the economic benefits of investing in early childhood, toured a program that provides single mothers and their children with a safe and affordable place to live, and saw research into the role of early mathematics skill development during a pre-conference to NCSL's annual Legislative Summit in August.

Senator Tanya Cook (NP-Neb.) speaks to colleagues at the Fellows meeting in Minneapolis.The class comprises 20 legislators and three legislative staff representing 14 states. The program is geared toward those chairing or serving on human services or education committees who want to expand their knowledge and learn from other legislators and experts across the country.

Now in its third year, the program continues to:

  • Build knowledge among legislators 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 participants with practical information they can use in their states
  • Facilitate access to leading researchers and policy experts.  

After a warm Minnesota Nice welcome to the city and state by Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Senator Dave Senjem (R) and Representative Joe Mullery (DFL), the meeting opened with an exciting presentation about the economic case for investing financial resources in early childhood programs.

Representative Maureen Walsh (R-Wash.) speaks to colleagues at the Fellows meeting in Minneapolis.Art Rolnick and Arthur Reynolds, co-directors of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota, shared their research on the economic benefits of investing in early childhood. Rolnick, an economist and formerly from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank,discussed the economic reasons why investments in early childhood programs are a strong and smart investment for states, noting that “as a society, we are under-investing in early childhood.”

Reynolds, whose research focuses on the cost-effectiveness of early childhood programs, focused on the outcomes he has found in his Chicago Public Schools study that indicate sustained gains because of program quality and dosage, family support and involvement, school quality and support, breadth and magnitude of skill enhancements and continuing or follow-on services.

Other highlights of the meeting included a tour and site visit at the Jeremiah Program, which provides single mothers and their children with a safe and affordable place to live, quality early childhood education, empowerment and life skills training, and support for career-track education.

Additionally, researcher Doug Clements from the University of Denver gave an informative presentation on his research into the role of early mathematics skill development in supporting school readiness and math and literacy proficiency, as well as provided implications for policy. Learn more about these and other sessions presented at the second face-to-face Fellows meeting as well as view handouts and PowerPoint presentations.

The third class of the Fellows program will conclude later in September 2014 with a final webinar, "Dual Language Learners: The Latest Social & Emotional Research."

During the 60-minute webinar, Tamara Halle, senior research scientist and co-program area director, Early Childhood Research at Child Trends, will explain the latest in social and emotional research on the processes of dual language development, which can provide useful guidance for lawmakers when considering policies and practices for young Dual Language Learners (DLL) children. Look for a blog post about this exciting webinar early in October 2014.  

Alison May is a staff coordinator in 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.