The NCSL Blog


By Alison May

nscl early learning fellowsThe first meeting of the 2019 Early Learning Fellows program is right around the corner. This new cohort, the eighth in the program, includes 24 legislators and two legislative staff representing 13 states.

Participants 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 2019 Early Learning Fellows include:

  • Senator Brian Buchanan (R-Ind.)
  • Representative Lisa Callan (D-Wash.)
  • Senator Machaela Cavanaugh (NP-Neb.)
  • Representative Sheila Dills (R-Okla.)
  • Assemblymember Joanne Downey (D-N.J.)
  • Senator Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Idaho)
  • Senator Jon Ford (R-Ind.)
  • Representative Joy Garratt (D-N.M.)
  • Senator Ron Grooms (R-Ind.)
  • Representative Kaohly Her (DFL-Minn.)
  • Senator Andre Jacque (R-Wis.)
  • Representative Raymundo Lara (D-N.M.)
  • Assemblymember Pamela Lampitt (D-N.J.)
  • Representative Mary Littleton (R-Tenn.)
  • Senator Jon Lundberg (R-Tenn.)
  • Representative Debra Moody (R-Tenn.)
  • Representative Monica Murnan (D-Kan.)
  • Senator Pat Pettey (D-Kan.)
  • Representative Sara Rasmussen (R-Alaska)
  • Representative Kristine Reeves (D-Wash.)
  • Representative Patrick Snyder (R-Wis.)
  • Assemblymember Shanique Speight (D-N.J.)
  • Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D-Alaska)
  • Senator Claire Wilson (D-Wash.)
  • Kevin Gwaltney, executive director, Missouri General Assembly Joint Committee on Education
  • Storm Linjer, research assistant to Representative Pat Snyder (R-Wis.)

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 2019 kickoff meeting will take place June 5-7 in Omaha, Neb., and a second meeting will be in Denver, Aug. 25-27. The Omaha meeting will include sessions on early brain architecture and cognitive development, the economic case for early learning, discussions on child care and prekindergarten and a tour of Educare—a high-quality early learning facility.

In Denver, participants will hear from Kathy Hirsh Pasek on play-based and technology learning and Linda Smith on governance structures. Other sessions will include best practices in home visiting and exploring the early care and education workforce. Fellows are expected to develop individual action plans for what they would like to accomplish in their home state related to early care and education. The yearlong program also includes webinars in July and August.

The key components of the Early Learning Fellows program are:

  • 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.
  • Connecting legislators to other legislative leaders working on early childhood policy.
  • Helping participants develop a practical early learning action plan they can use in their state.
  • Facilitating access to leading researchers and policy experts.

Representative John Carney KentuckySince the Early Learning Fellows program was launched in 2011, 189 legislators and 25 legislative staff representing 48 states and two territories have participated. A recently published alumni report reflects on program highlights and experiences of past participants.

“It was an incredible experience as a 20-year public educator and a 10-year state legislator to take part in the 2017 Early Learning Fellows Program," says Representative John Carney (R-Ky.), a 2017 Early Learning Fellow. "Most of my experiences have been around middle and high school education, so this program was very impactful for me to learn about the significance of early childhood education. It truly convinced me that we could solve a lot of long-term problems by investing in early childhood education.” 

Former Senator Kate Sullivan, NebraskaFormer Senator Kate Sullivan (NP-Neb.), a 2014 Early Learning Fellow, calls the program action-oriented.

“The Fellows program has been a unique and rewarding experience in so many ways: learning from and networking with colleagues from other states, hearing about research and cutting-edge information on early learning, and (most of all) applying all of this to actual steps to take in our respective states,” she says.

NCSL’s 2019 Early Learning Fellows program is made possible by support from the Alliance for Early Success, Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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

Alison May is a policy associate in NCSL’s Children and Families Program.

Email Alison

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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.