NCSL E-update September 14, 2010

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What’s New

New Research

Across the States

Upcoming Events

What’s New

Early Childhood Advisory Councils (ECAC)

The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 requires each state to “designate or establish a council to serve as the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care for children from birth to school entry” (Pub. L. No. 110-134).  This year, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a grant opportunity for states to support their state advisory councils.  51 states and territories applied for the funds and the money has started to flow to states. 

The role of the legislature in the councils has varied from state to state.  Currently 19 states’ councils include legislative members with some ranging from one council position for a legislator to the Early Childhood Iowa Advisory Council, which includes up to 14 legislative appointments.  In many states the council was created by executive order while others, such as Minnesota, passed legislation to codify their council.

An updated chart from NCSL provides state by state information on ECACs as well as other early childhood commissions, task forces and committees.  This document provides links to council websites, establishment legislation, and executive orders as well as an overview of each council, including the number seats reserved for legislators.  To take advantage of this resource, click here.

NCSL is actively following the work of ECACs across the country and is available to provide technical assistance.  Do you want to know more about yours or other states ECACs or would you like to contribute information about your state’s council?  Send an email to Stephen Fagan.

States Receive Federal Funds for Home Visiting: Upcoming State Plan

In July, forty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and five territories applied for and were awarded funding for home visiting.  This funding was part of the new health care law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 P.L. 111-148) signed into law this spring that created a new program called the  Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.  The program with $1.5 billion in funding is designed to improve health and developmental outcomes for at-risk children through evidence based home visiting.  Home visiting has been an important strategy for lawmakers and NCSL has worked with a number of legislators over the years in their efforts to expand, improve and coordinate home visiting programs in their states.

Receiving the initial allocation is only the first step in the process.  States were required to submit an application in July and to complete a needs assessment in September.  The final step in the process will be to complete a state plan in 2011. It is in the final phase, determining what the state plans to do, that legislators may want to get involved.  While there are many issues still to be clarified by federal guidance, ranging from what kinds of programs meet the standard to be considered “evidence-based” to what the future allocations will look like, it is a good time to engage in conversations in your state about the future of home visiting. State plans will be due in early 2011.
Lawmakers may want to think about:

  • How will legislators be involved in the process?
  • Where should the new federal funds be allocated?
  • Does the needs assessment identify gaps in services to at-risk families which could be addressed by the new federal funds?
  • How does the federal funding, with its tie to evidence-based programs, provide an opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the state’s existing home visiting programs?
  • How can the state think about leveraging the federal funding and planning opportunity to think more broadly about the future of home visiting in your state? 

We would like to know how you are involved in your state and how NCSL can be helpful in your efforts.  NCSL will be supporting legislators that are working on home visiting this year, so please let us know what your needs are.  Send an email to

New Legislator Information

Every year legislatures experience turnover as a result of elections, term limits, and new appointments.  While new faces and new ideas are important, it is also vital that new committee members come prepared to contribute on day one in order to take advantage of the often short and busy legislative session.  NCSL’s Child Care and Early Education project has produced a number of resources that committee chairs will find helpful in preparing new members to make decisions on early care and education issues.  A small sampling of these resources can be found below.

Child Care and Early Education Legislation Database

This database of state legislation is updated twice monthly and allows users to search over three years of legislation, from 2008-2010, by topic, state and year.  To take advantage of this resource, click here.

Information Requests

Do you have questions about legislation?  Curious what are other states are doing on a topic that you want to address? NCSL staffers are available to take your requests and will, in a timely manner, get you relevant information.  For questions on child care and early learning please email Stephen Fagan or call 303-856-1374.

Coming Soon! New Legislator Webpage

Before the start of the 2011 session, we will be launching a new page that will provide easy access to materials that will help new legislators learn the ins and outs of child care and early education issues. Be sure to check NCSL’s Early Childhood page for updates.

New Research

State Approaches to School Readiness Assessment

Academic achievement is a cornerstone of independence, productivity and active citizenship. Children who enter kindergarten ready to meet its academic, social and emotional demands are more likely to achieve later academic and life success. Likewise, children who enter school behind their peers in these areas tend to remain academically behind and at risk for harmful behavior in adulthood (e.g., dropping out of school, criminal behavior, unemployment). Evidence suggests that more than half the achievement gap found in later school years already is present at kindergarten entry. This NCSL brief focuses on how states currently assess school readiness, through the use of assessment at the start of kindergarten. To download the full report, click here

Building Coordinated Data Systems

In September the Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC) released two new reports designed to help support state policymakers’ develop and use coordinated state early care and education (ECE) data systems. The ECDC is a partnership of several national organizations, including NCSL.

Building and Using Coordinated State Early Care and Education Data Systems: A Framework for States is a white paper that makes the case for why states should build longitudinal data systems for early care and education, describes the ten fundamentals of a coordinated system with state examples, and provides guidance on how to ensure appropriate access to data, which includes building the capacity for stakeholders to use the data for continuous improvement.  Click here for the paper:

Getting Started: 10 Fundamentals of Coordinated State Early Care and Education Data Systems: This brochure highlights the importance of coordinated and longitudinal data systems and details what states can do to start building them to inform continuous improvement in early care and education. Click here for the brochure:

Beyond Centers and Homes: The Workforce in Three California Early Childhood Infrastructure Organizations

This study from the Center for the Study Child Care Employment examines the career backgrounds and professional development needs of those working in child care resource and referral programs, local First 5 commissions, and child care coordinators across the state. Read more about the Beyond Centers and Homes project, and download this study.

The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood

A white paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child in partnership with the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs examines how health in the earliest years, beginning with the future mother’s well-being before she becomes pregnant, lays the groundwork for a lifetime of vitality. When developing biological systems in young children are strengthened by positive early experiences, they are more likely to thrive and grow up to be healthy adults. Sound health also provides a foundation for the construction of sturdy brain architecture and the achievement of a broad range of skills and learning capacities. The full report is available here.

Tracking American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funds Child Care and Development Block Grant Outlays

A useful resource from CLASP that provides 50 state data on Child Care and Development Block Grant obligations of ARRA funds and the amount and percent of these funds that states have utilized as of mid July of this year.  To view the full report, click here.

State Case Studies of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Systems: Strategies for Change

This report from the Commonwealth Fund examines the efforts made in Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to develop mental health systems of early identification and intervention for children from birth to age 5. While each state is in a different stage of development, together they provide a picture of progress and opportunities for national change in this evolving area of health care. The study focuses on the process of change and identifies common strategies for achieving innovation. State profiles, examples of major initiatives, and descriptions of exemplary practices illustrate ways that states can improve services and policies. Read the full report here.

Across the States

Washington Unveils Statewide Early Learning Plan

On September 1, 2010 the Washington Department of Early Learning in conjunction with the Early Learning Advisory Council and other stakeholders released the state’s new Early Learning Plan.  The comprehensive plan lays out what the state plans to do, and by when for early childhood issues and describes an implementation strategy for the three lead agencies.  To access the full state plan, click here.

2010 Election Quick Facts:

This year there are 6115 legislative seats up  out of 7382. There are a record 37 governor’s races. At least 25 of the governors will be new next year because of term limits, retirements and primary losses.

A recent New York Times article provides a deeper analysis of the upcoming election and provides an interactive map to break it all down.

Upcoming Events

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Come to the NCSL Fall Forum to dig into the issues and learn how changes in Congress are going to affect states in 2011. Nowhere else will you get this kind of state-specific analysis and insight. Listen to the nation’s leading experts as they assess the fall election and evaluate the ways the state-federal relationship will shift with new perspectives in office. Register Now!