The NCSL Blog


By Alison May

The first meeting of the 2018 Early Learning Fellows program is right around the corner. The new cohort—the seventh—includes 30 legislators and five legislative staff and represents 23 states.

Early Learning Fellows logoParticipants were selected through a competitive application process and are experienced or emerging leaders on early childhood and early learning issues in their state. NCSL’s 2018 Early Learning Fellows include:


  • Senator Omar Aquino (D-Ill.)
  • Representative Rhonda Baker (R-Okla.)
  • Senator Regina Barrow (D-La.)
  • Representative Michael “Mike” Bergan (R-Iowa)
  • Representative Kathy Bernier (R-Wis.)
  • Senator Wesley Bishop (D-La.)        
  • Representative Carol Bush (R-Okla.)
  • Representative Ty Cullen (D-Hawaii )
  • Representative Harriet Drummond (D-Alaska)        
  • Delegate Eric Ebersole (D-Md.)       
  • Representative Holly Grange (R-N.C.)         
  • Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Ill.)           
  • Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee (D-N.Y.)      
  • Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Ill.)   
  • Senator Michelle Kidani (D-Hawaii)
  • Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Ohio)
  • Senator Lou Ann Linehan (NP-Nebr.)
  • Senator Dominick Moreno (D-Colo.)
  • Representative Jim Neely (R-Mo.)
  • Representative Roz Peterson (R-Minn.)
  • Senator Kevin Priola (R-Colo.)
  • Representative Daire Rendon (R-Mich.)
  • Senator William (Bill) Soules (D-N.M.)
  • Senator Dinah Sykes (R-Kans.)
  • Senator Larry Taylor (R-Tex.)
  • Representative Polly Thomas (R-La.)
  • Representative Nancy VanderMeer (R-Wis.)
  • Representative Pebblin Warren, (D-Ala.)
  • Senator Lisa Wellman (D-Wash.)     
  • Senator David Wilson (R-Alaska)
  • Shelby Armentrout, education policy adviser, Office of North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore   
  • Megan Comlossy, principal policy analyst, Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau           
  • Josie Gerrietts, fiscal analyst, Iowa Legislative Services Agency
  • Tim Mathis, budget analyst, Louisiana House Fiscal Division
  • Taylor Smiley Wolfe, senior policy adviser, Office of Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek


NCLS’s Early Learning Fellows program is designed for members of human services, education or appropriation committees who want to expand their knowledge about early childhood development and early childhood education policy options. To learn more about the program and cohort, visit NCSL’s Early Learning website.  

The 2018 kickoff meeting will take place June 6-8 in Denver and a second meeting will be in late August in Minneapolis.

Highlights of the Denver meeting include sessions on early brain science and brain architecture, exploring the early care and education workforce, and a tour of Educare—a high-quality early learning facility. 

In Minneapolis, participants will hear from Art Rolnick about the economic argument for early childhood education investments. Other sessions in Minneapolis will focus on innovative financing strategies and child care. Fellows also will have time to develop individual action plans or road maps for what they would like to accomplish in their home state related to early care and education.

The yearlong Early Learning Fellows program also includes a webinar in July discussing suspension and expulsion in the early years and a second webinar in August focused on prekindergarten. These webinars will include legislative respondents alongside national presenters from the BUILD Initiative and Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO).

The key components of the Early Learning Fellows program include:

  • Building knowledge among legislators and staff about new research and policy.
  • Exchanging ideas and solutions related to early learning, the early achievement gap and many other issues.
  • Introducing and connecting legislators to other legislative early childhood leaders.
  • Providing participants with a practical early learning plan they can use in their state.
  • Facilitating access to leading researchers and policy experts.

Since launching its Early Learning Fellows program in 2011, NCSL has enrolled 215 participants. Visit this webpage and expand the Fellows Highlight Section, to read about experiences of program alumni.

Representative Donny LambethRepresentative Donny C. Lambeth (R-N.C.) participated in the fifth cohort and said, “Rarely does participation in a training program have a significantly profound impact on the work in which I am involved; however, my experiences with the Early Learning Fellowship Program did just that. The information presented positively affected the way in which I think about early learning for children from birth to school years.

"The program provided new tools and proven models of success which, when applied, will help educators in my state build a positive foundation for children who need the most support. I highly recommend this program to other legislators who are looking for innovative and proven methods of success in learning.”

Representative Christine BarberRepresentative Christine Barber (D-Mass.) participated in the sixth cohort and said, “NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows program taught me about the science behind early child development, quality metrics for programs, and financial models. Although my state has done a lot of work on early education, I found it extremely valuable to meet with other legislators and staff and problem-solve our similar challenges.

"The fellows program sparked new ideas, reinforced the critical need to invest in early education to improve our communities, and gave me a solid base to work on legislation back home.”

NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows program is made possible by support from the Alliance for Early Success, Heising-Simons Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

For more information about this premier NCSL program email Alison May or call her at 303-856-1473.

Alison May is a research analyst 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.