The NCSL Blog


By Jennifer Palmer

early education classroomAs we close out 2018 and begin making plans for the new year, NCSL’s Children and Families and Education programs are reflecting on our work over the years to support early care and education.

Since 2011, one of NCSL’s premier programs, the Early Learning Fellows, has engaged legislators and legislative staff from across the country in year-long fellowships to expand their knowledge of early care and education policy issues and options.

A new Alumni Report takes a look at the program, its participants and its impact, highlighting examples of Early Learning Fellow alumni who have created early learning councils or caucuses in their states, passed legislation to expand early care and education opportunities, raised program quality and supported the early care and education workforce.

Some alumni have joined other NCSL advisory groups that dive deeper into early childhood policies and systems, including the Prenatal-to-Three Legislative Advisory Group and the State Policy and Research for Early Education (SPREE) Working Group.

NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows program is designed to equip legislators and staff with the tools to tackle early care and education policy issues in their states. Participants collaborate with experts and their legislative colleagues from other states to discuss the latest research, elevate proven models and spark new ideas. They then develop their own early learning action plan that includes top priorities and next steps for their individual states.

Extensive research on early brain development underscores the influence a child’s first eight years has on later development and life-long outcomes. More specifically, the quality of early experiences is critical for laying the foundation for healthy development and can affect a child’s long-term success in school, relationships and work. State lawmakers play a critical role in supporting and improving early care end education opportunities in their states.

The Early Learning Fellows program will continue in 2019 with its eighth cohort. Visit the Early Learning Fellows website for more information.

NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows Program by the numbers:

  • Cohorts of Early Learning Fellows: 7
  • Legislators and 25 legislative staff: 189
  • Democrats: 93; Republicans: 91; and nonpartisan legislators: 5
  • States and two territories: 50
  • In-person meetings: 13
  • Webinars: 16
  • Site visits to high-quality early learning centers: 5
  • Bills and resolutions introduced related to early care and education: 179
  • Enactments and adoptions: 45

Jennifer Palmer covers early care and education issues 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.