Early Learning Fellows | Class Four


Early Learning Fellows logo. Blue wavy background with Capitol dome.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is pleased to continue facilitating an Early Learning Fellows program for state legislators and staff.

States have been leading efforts to improve the quality of child care, implementing preschool and innovative ways to support families with young children across the age spectrum from birth to kindergarten and into the early grades. They are also addressing challenges with governance, financing, data systems and teacher training/professional development.

Scientific and evaluation research provide new insights into both child development and programs that are showing results. Federal initiatives, such as the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge and the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting, will boost early childhood and home visiting funds in the coming years.

We are pleased to offer a legislative fellows program to legislators and legislative staff at no cost. NCSL’s Early Learning Fellows program is made possible by grants from the Alliance for Early Success, the Bezos Family Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation and Mattel, Inc.

On this page you will find all information related to the fourth round of Early Learning Fellows.

Class 4 | 2015

Meet the Fellows

Photo of Early Learning Fellows in August 2015












View the photo roster.


Representative Raumesh Akbari, Tennessee Senator Carla Nelson, Minnesota
Councilmember Charles Allen, District of Columbia Representative Garry Piiparinen, Wyoming
Representative Sarah Buxton, Vermont Senator Arnie Roblan, Oregon
Senator Danny Carroll, Kentucky Senator Quinton T. Ross, Jr., Alabama
Representative Joyce Chandler, Georgia Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, New Jersey
Representative Cathy Connolly, Wyoming Representative Lowry Snow, Utah
Senator Sal DiDomenico, Massachusetts Senator Alan Solano, South Dakota
Representative Mary Danielle Franson, Minnesota Senator Howard Stephenson, Utah
Representative Cedric R. Hayden, Oregon Assemblyman Lynn D. Stewart, Nevada
Representative Mark S. Kinner, Wyoming Representative Kelly Townsend, Arizona
Representative Susan Lontine, Colorado Representative Susan Westrom, Kentucky

Legislative Staff
Liz Mahn, research associate, New Jersey
Matthew Simon, legislative research analyst, Arizona
Dorothy Spence, deputy legislative director Office of Speaker of the House, Oregon

NCSL Staff
Robyn Lipkowitz, program director, Children and Families Program
Alison May, staff coordinator, Children and Families Program
Julie Poppe, program manager, Children and Families Program

Kickoff Meeting

The Fellows program began with the Early Learning Fellows Kickoff Meeting: Building State Leadership at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel Aug. 2-3, 2015.

Agenda | Participant List | Speaker Bios

Kickoff Meeting Agenda
Day 1: Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015  
8-8:30 a.m.    Breakfast
8:30-9:15 a.m. Welcome, Introductions and Overview of the Day
Introductions: National Conference of State Legislatures
                       Chief Steve Strachan, Bremerton, Washington
9:15-10:30 a.m.

Building a Foundation for Achievement: How Early Experiences Shape Brain Architecture
Introduction: Robyn Lipkowitz, National Conference of State Legislatures
Speaker: Melanie Berry, University of Oregon

10:30-10:45 a.m. Break

Early Learning Trends: Show Me the Evidence
Moderator: Julie Poppe, National Conference of State Legislatures

Steve Barnett, National Institute for Early Education Research, New Jersey

Ron Haskins, The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.

Noon-1:15 p.m. Lunch and Networking with Fellows
1:15-2:15 p.m.

Early Childhood Cost-Benefit Analysis: Making the Best Use of Taxpayer Dollars

Noa Kay, Washington State Institute for Public Policy

Charles Sallee, New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee

2:15-3:15 p.m.

Bridging Health Care and Early Education Policy to Achieve Kindergarten Readiness
Speaker: Megan Irwin, Oregon Department of Education, Early Learning Division

               Kate Nass, Oregon Health Authority

3:15-3:30 p.m. Break
3:30-4 p.m.    Reflections of the Day
Facilitators: National Conference of State Legislatures
4-5:15 p.m.

Advice from State Capitols
Moderator: Julie Poppe, National Conference of State Legislatures
Speakers: Representative Tana Senn, Washington

                 Senator Brice Wiggins, Mississippi

6-8 p.m. Reception and Dinner: Il Fornaio Seattle
Day 2: Monday, Aug. 3, 2015  
8-8:30 a.m. Breakfast and Networking
8:30-8:45 a.m. Organizing and Boarding Bus
9:15-11:30 a.m. Site Visit to Educare School of Greater Seattle
Sponsor: Heising-Simons Foundation
Noon-1:15 p.m.

Lunch and Networking with Fellows

Speaker: Ellen Frede, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

1:15-1:30 p.m. Final Thoughts and Wrapup

Second Meeting

The Fellows reconvened with a second meeting in Denver Oct. 8-9, 2015, at the Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park.

Agenda | Participant List | Speaker Bios

Second Meeting Agenda
Day 1: Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015  

7:30-8 a.m.   

8-8:45 a.m. Welcome, Introductions and Overview of the Day
Introductions: Robyn Lipkowitz, National Conference of State Legislatures
8:45-9:45 a.m.

The Power of Play and Helping Young Children Develop SR/EF

Introduction: Julie Poppe, National Conference of State Legislatures

Speaker: Deb Leong, Tools of the Mind, CO 

9:45-10 a.m. Break
10-11:15 a.m.

Supporting Children and their Parents through Child Care

Moderator: Charlotte Brantley, Clayton Early Learning, CO
Speakers: Christine Johnson-Staub, CLASP, D.C.

                   Karen Schulman, NWLC, D.C.

11:15 a.m-12:15 p.m. Early Learning Planning: Thinking through Your Top Priorities


1-2:15 p.m.

Home Visiting: A Legislative Primer

Moderator: Robyn Lipkowitz, National Conference of State Legislatures

Speaker: Lisa Hill, Invest in Kids, Colorado

              Jennifer Scholl, Invest in Kids/Nurse-Family Partnership, CO

2:15-2:45 p.m. Early Learning Planning: Putting Pen to Paper
2:45-3 p.m.    Break
3-4:15 p.m.

Pay for Success: Innovative Financing to Support Early Childhood Programs

Moderator: Robyn Lipkowitz, National Conference of State Legislatures
SpeakersJoe Waters, Institute for Child Success, SC

                 Senator Thomas Alexander, SC

4:15-5 p.m. CCDBG Focus Group (optional session)
Day 2: Friday, Oct. 9, 2015  
8-8:30 a.m. Breakfast and Networking
8:30-9:30 a.m.

Brain Science: Interventions and Policy Implications

Introduction: Julie Poppe, National Conference of State Legislatures

Speaker: Sarah Watamura, University of Denver, CO

9:30-10:30 a.m.

Show Me the Evidence: Key Questions for Legislators When Examining the Research

Facilitator: Courtney Harrison, CLH Strategies and Solutions, CO 
Speaker: Sarah Daily, Child Trends, D.C. 

10:30-10:45 p.m.


10:45-11:15 a.m. Early Learning Planning Exercise
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

What Legislators Need to Know about P-3


Introduction: Matt Weyer, National Conference of State Legislatures

Speaker: Emily Workman, Education Commission of the States (ECS), CO

12:15-1:15 p.m.

Lunch and Networking 

1:15-2 p.m.

Early Learning Planning

2-3 p.m.

Reflect on the meeting and next steps for early learning plans



webinar graphicOver the course of the Fellows program two webinars took place, each webinar had an expert speaking about key issues related to early learning.

Webinar 1:
Integrating Early Childhood Data: What Legislators Need to Know on Thursday, Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. CT / Noon MT / 11 a.m. PT
View an archived version of the webinar.

Webinar 2:
Supporting Children’s Social and Emotional Needs and Reducing Early Childhood Expulsions​ on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. CT / Noon MT / 11 a.m. PT
View an archived version of the webinar.

*Learn more about other NCSL sponsored webinars.


Legislative Corner

Fellows blue banner with image of children and capitolAs a way to keep all Fellows connected with one another and to highlight the terrific work being done in your state, NCSL staff will periodically highlight a Fellow and the work they are doing.

View other Early Learning Fellows Legislative Corner Posts

If you have something to share please be sure to email Alison May.


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