By Matt Weyer
From access to assessments, state legislators had plenty to deliberate and discuss regarding early childhood education (ECE) in 2018.
And as 2019 legislative sessions are underway, the momentum around ECE issues is likely to continue.
Issues up for debate include the traditional ones, such as improving pre-K quality and access, literacy development and family engagement. Emerging issues include discipline policies, ECE teacher compensation and qualifications and the long-term effects of pre-K.
To support state legislators and legislative staff in their ECE efforts, NCSL has several resources:
State Policy and Research for Early Education Working Group (SPREE). SPREE is comprised of 10 state legislators and legislative staff alongside several ECE experts who have worked and learned together since 2016. In January 2018, they released a report entitled A Fair Start: Ensuring All Students Are Ready to Learn, which takes an in-depth look at important ECE issues and provides research and state legislative examples.
- SPREE member Representative Takashi Ohn (D-Hawaii): "The science shows early education is the simplest way for students to develop a love of learning. However, finding and retaining qualified professionals for this crucial work is a challenge. Discussing other states' solutions to address the needs of their workforce helped me prepare to tackle this issue at home in Hawaii."
- SPREE member Representative Robert Behning (R-Ind.): “In many states, there are always new and innovative ideas being implemented in schools. Collaborating with education leaders and professionals across the country on ways to drive student success improves opportunities for kids everywhere. It is always an eye-opening experience visiting schools and seeing what works best in their classrooms, and then finding ways to implement successful programs back home in Indiana.”
Advisory Group on Closing Early Learning Opportunity Gaps. This 10-member legislative advisory group is guiding NCSL in developing resources for legislators and legislative staff to effectively address and close opportunity and achievement gaps early on, with a specific focus on utilizing the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Here are a few of the group's resources:
Check out what ECE legislation was introduced and enacted in 2018 with NCSL’s comprehensive coverage:
As 2019 legislative sessions unfold, NCSL’s early learning team will be developing a new 2019 tracking database and several new publications, including a legislator’s guide to early learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act, LegisBriefs on school discipline and a 2019 legislative summary, and will host several meetings and workshops focused on ECE issues.
The early learning team is available to provide technical assistance, facilitate state workshops and develop in-depth answers to any ECE questions you may have.
Matt Weyer is a senior policy specialist in NCSL’s Education Program.