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The Budget VS. Education


in  Parenting Articles |  February 10th, 2011 at 8:48 am

 The budget vs education
by Martha Vance Brown
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Can North Carolina afford to ignore pre-school children, their ability to learn and become productive adults?

That’s a question legislators should ask themselves as the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services starts work on the 2012 budget.

Yes, the state faces a $3.7 billion shortfall between projected revenues and the current government service levels. And yes, cuts have to be made – but not at a cost to children, which translates into a long-term negative impact to our state’s future.

If there ever was a time for politics to be set aside, it is now. 

Smart Start and More at Four have been the target of questioning by Republicans for years, not surprising since Smart Start was an initiative of Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt in the 1990s and Democratic Gov. Mike Easley later started More at Four.

North Carolina’s future depends on today’s children, and Smart Start and More at Four provide the services that foster the health and well-being of those children. The John Locke Foundation has called Smart Start an “expensive baby-sitting program” and “government-sponsored nannies,” but that’s hogwash from an entity that hasn’t done its due diligence.

Smart Start funds a myriad of programs geared to ensuring that children start kindergarten prepared to learn. Those programs range from medical support to physical and emotional therapies for children who are behind their peers as infants and toddlers, to child care subsidy for low-income families, teen parenting skills, literacy classes and so much more.

Up to 90 percent of a person’s brain develops during the first three years of life. This is the time when we should provide the greatest support to children.

Numerous studies have proved that children who start kindergarten behind their peers are more likely to remain behind their peers. Unprepared children also are more likely to drop out of school, require welfare funding in adulthood, be unable to hold a well-paying job and become involved in crime. 

Bottom line? We can fund children’s support services now or we can pay a whole lot more later when the children become unprepared and jobless adults.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce offers an ominous warning about the future of American business if significant changes to early education aren’t made. 

“With current early childhood education resource levels, too many Kindergartners will continue to begin school ill-prepared, language skills and achievement scores in math and reading will likely remain at mediocre levels, costs for interventions during the K-12 years and after will continue to rise, high school graduation rates and post-secondary degree completion rates will likely remain unchanged, and businesses will lack the necessary workforce to fill the jobs of the future,” a Chamber report states.

If the Chamber says the status quo isn’t good enough, imagine its opinion of funding cuts to children’s services.

It is in our state’s best interest to maintain investments in the early education system. North Carolina’s prosperity depends on our ability to ensure that all children have the opportunity to develop intellectually, socially and emotionally. A child with a solid foundation becomes part of a solid community and contributes to our society

Martha Vance Brown is the executive director for the Richmond County Partnership for Children.

Read more: Richmond County Daily Journal - The budget vs education 


by Beth Costanzo | Share Article | Email Article | Print Article

Is Early Childhood Education Worth the Money? Many Researchers say, "Yes!"


in  Parenting Articles |  February 9th, 2011 at 6:57 am


Is early childhood education worth the money? Many researchers say yes

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011 11:43 a.m. MST

Education is on many policy and lawmakers minds. People wonder if education is outdated. Are teachers doing enough? Are parents doing enough? But many researchers believe early childhood education is one of the best investments states can make in education.

USA Today reported late last week that not only does early childhood education benefit children, it benefits taxpayers as well by about a $4-$11 return on every $1 spent. The study was based on students in preschool programs that were followed through age 26. These children were more likely to finish high school and/or college and earn more money than their peers. They were less likely to be held back, arrested, depressed, sick or involved with drugs, the National Institutes of Health study says.

"Good preschool programs can make a strong early impression, allowing kids to thrive and become confident learners," the article states.

But during the economic downturn, states across the nation are looking at cutting back pre-k and kindergarten programs. Georgia, who was thought of as forward thinking in early childhood education, is considering cutting $20 million from the state's pre-k program, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. New Hampshire introduced a bill today that would no longer require schools to offer kindergarten, according to the Nashua Telegraph.

Utah legislatures are debating whether to continue an optional all-day kindergarten program for at-risk children, that is set to expire in July. Some Utah lawmakers don't think there is a benefit to the program that costs the state $7.5 million a year to hold 250 voluntary all-day kindergarten classes.

A New York Times article called "The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers" from last year explored this thought a little more and found that while a Tennessee said that those who attended kindergarten outperformed their peers significantly only until junior high, these benefits of going to kindergarten re-emerged in adulthood.

"Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds," the New York Times article states. "Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more."

The article also addressed the causation-correlation aspect of the study and said that the students in the study were chosen randomly for their kindergarten classes and it seemed those with better kindergarten teachers far outperformed their peers. One researcher even estimated "that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year." That is the estimate of what additional money a full class will earn in their lifetime if they had a good kindergarten teacher.



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Early Childhood Education Funding Sensible, Affordable.


in  Parenting Articles |  February 9th, 2011 at 6:59 am



Early Childhood Education Funding Sensible, Affordable.

This financial year, the Government will invest $1.4 billion in Early Childhood Education (ECE). That’s an increase of $200 million over the previous financial year. So it is simply not true to say that funding for ECE has been reduced. The per-child funding of ECE is now $7600 per child per year. This compares to an average of $5528 for a primary school student and $6733 for a student at secondary school. Despite Dr Clark’s scaremongering, 20 hours free ECE is still in place.

However, while the goal of the previous Government was to increase participation in ECE, the massive increase in government funding has resulted in just a 1% increase in participation and in some parts of the country up to 40% of pre-school children are missing out on ECE. So we are making sure that funding reaches those children who need it the most. We are investing $91.8 million over the next four years in five intensive community-led participation projects in high priority areas. This will lead to an additional 3,500 places in ECE, targeted at Maori, Pasifika, and children from lower socio-economic areas.

So why all the fuss about ECE? Put simply, this is about the qualifications of the staff into whose care we entrust our children. The previous Labour Government committed to a goal of 80 % qualified ECE teachers by 2010 and 100% by 2012. This unrealistic target would have led to up to a thousand ECE centres having to close. At the moment only 67 % of teachers in the sector are registered. We amended the target to 80% by 2012.

In Budget 2010 we also announced that we would align funding to the 80% goal. Thus, prior to 1 February 2011, in a facility where the mix and age of children required say 5 staff, the Government would fund all five if they were registered teachers. After 1 February funding will be for up to four registered teachers and one unregistered staff member. The unregistered staff member could be an experienced teacher aide or parent of grown children returning to the workforce but without formal qualifications.

The staffing adjustment could be achieved by attrition. ECE centres have had eight months’ notice of this change and with the turnover in the sector of around 20%, there was plenty of opportunity to do so. Furthermore, given the demand for registered teachers, no registered teacher would be out of a job. The likely impact would be an increase in the proportion of registered teachers in those ECE centres that presently have numbers below 80%.

The union that represents ECE teachers, NZEI, cites research that qualified teachers are a key factor in the provision of quality early childhood education that provides the most benefit for children. I agree with this. However, given the care and safety aspects of ECE I have no doubt that an experienced parent or caregiver can make a meaningful contribution to an ECE facility as part of a team led by registered teachers without compromising educational outcomes.

Dunedin’s ECE facilities were faced with choices in response to the Government’s funding change. Disappointingly, some ECE centres have chosen to burden already financially constrained parents with a fee increase based on the ideological belief that the 80% model would materially compromise the quality of ECE. As the parent of a preschool child, I strongly disagree with this view. What is also disappointing is that some ECE centres unilaterally increased fees without asking parents if they would be happy with the staffing model the Government is funding. My child’s ECE facility wrote to parents outlining the four options the centre was considering. The options did not include the 80% model which avoids the need for fee increases. It did not ask parents whether they would be satisfied with a staffing complement that would avoid the need to increase fees.

In affirming Labour’s commitment to restoring the goal of funding 100% registered teachers, Dr Clark makes no attempt to explain how this (and many other hollow Labour promises) will be funded or how much debt a Labour Government would be prepared to burden those same children with repaying in the future.

My Government’s response is sensible in the constrained economic circumstances without compromising the quality of ECE in New Zealand. I believe this as much as a parent as I do as a politician.


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Researchers Find Early Childhood Education Program Yields High Economic Returns


in  Parenting Articles |  February 7th, 2011 at 8:02 am


Researchers Find Early Childhood Education Program Yields High Economic Returns

Main Category: Pediatrics / Children's Health
Also Included In: Public Health;  Depression
Article Date: 07 Feb 2011 - 1:00 PST

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For every $1 invested in a Chicago early childhood education program, nearly $11 is projected to return to society over the children's lifetimes - equivalent to an 18 percent annual return on program investment, according to a study led by University of Minnesota professor of child development Arthur Reynolds in the College of Education and Human Development. 

For the analysis, Reynolds and other researchers evaluated the effectiveness of the Chicago Public Schools' federally funded Child Parent Centers (CPCs) established in 1967. Their work represents the first long-term economic analysis of an existing, large-scale early education program. Researchers surveyed study participants and their parents, and analyzed education, employment, public aid, criminal justice, substance use and child welfare records for the participants through to age 26. 

"Our findings provide strong evidence that sustained high-quality early childhood programs can contribute to well-being for individuals and society," said Reynolds, director of the Chicago Longitudinal Study and co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota. "The large-scale CPC program has one of the highest economic returns of any social program for young people. As public institutions are being pressed to cut costs, our findings suggest that increasing access to high-quality programs starting in preschool and continuing into the early grades is an efficient use of public resources." 

The CPC program in the project provided services for low-income families beginning at age three in 20 school sites. Kindergarten and school-age services are provided up to age nine (third grade). Funded by Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, CPC is the second oldest (after Head Start) federally funded preschool program. The analysis appears in the January/February issue of Child Development, the journal of the Society for Research in Child Development. Co-authoring researchers included Judy Temple, Barry White and Suh-Ruu Ou at the University of Minnesota and Dylan Robertson from the Chicago Public Schools. 

Reynolds and his colleagues did the cost-benefit analysis of the CPC using information collected on about 900 children enrolled in the 20 centers starting when they were three and first enrolled in a preschool program. The study continued until the children were nine and taking part in a school-age program that featured smaller classes, teacher aides, and instructional and family support. Follow-up interviews were done in early adulthood and information was collected from many sources until age 26. These children were compared to a group of about 500 comparable children who didn't take part in the CPC but participated in the usual educational interventions for disadvantaged youths in Chicago schools. 

The CPC resulted in significantly higher rates of attendance at 4-year colleges and employment in higher-skilled jobs and significantly lower rates of felony arrests and symptoms of depression in young adulthood. 

The program's economic benefits in 2007 dollars exceeded costs, including increased earnings and tax revenues, averted costs related to crime and savings for child welfare, special education and grade retention. The preschool part showed the strongest economic benefits providing a total return to society of $10.83 per dollar invested - equivalent to an 18 percent annual return on program investment. Gains varied by child, program and family group. 

When the researchers included the benefits from reductions in smoking, total returns rose to more than $12 per dollar invested. The school-age program yielded a return of about $4 per dollar invested (annual rate of return of 10 percent) and the combined preschool and school-age program (preschool to third grade) yielded returns of $8.24 per dollar invested (annual rate of return of 18 percent), based on average net benefits per child of $38,000 above and beyond less extensive intervention. 

Children at higher levels of risk experienced the highest economic benefits, including males ($17.88 per dollar invested; a 22% annual return), children who had taken part in preschool for a year ($13.58 per dollar invested; a 21% annual return) and children from higher-risk families, including those whose parents had not graduated from high school ($15.88 per dollar invested; a 20% annual return). 

The researchers identified five key principles of the CPC that they say led to its effectiveness, including providing services that are of sufficient length or duration, are high in intensity and enrichment, feature small class sizes and teacher-student ratios, are comprehensive in scope and are implemented by well-trained and well-compensated staff. A further unique feature of the research is that the origin of the economic returns can be empirically traced through a chain of early educational advantages to cumulate in long-term effects. 

The findings from this analysis can be useful to policymakers and school superintendents across the nation as they make funding decisions. A lot of states are thinking of scaling back on early childhood investments, but this analysis suggests the opposite, Reynolds said. 

"Access to effective programs like CPC should be increased," Reynolds said. "In scarce times, policymakers should divest in programs that aren't working and reserve the scarce resources for the most effective." 

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which is part of the National Institute of Health, funded this study. 

Patty Mattern
University of Minnesota 

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in  Parenting Articles |  December 27th, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Christmas cards have been pouring in wishing a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! It is time to celebrate a new life and a new start! It is a time of reflection on the year past and of looking forward to a new year and imagining what it may bring. New Year is the time to make the changes necessary to lead a more fulfilling life. Start today.  Reflect upon the things that you don't like and think of ways that you can change them. It is a time to put the past behind you, and step bravely into the unknown.

In my more youthful days, I had a plan of my life etched in my mind. I would find the right man and get married, buy a house, open my business and see the world. For the most part, I have done what I planned, but it is funny how your outlook on life changes as you get older. I think less about things, but more about myself evolving as a good person (my goal is to get into heaven). I want to do something each day that frightens the heck out of me. I want to challenge myself, I want to help others and raise my children to be independent, successful individuals. I want to bring my company as far as I can and continue to have a blast while doing it.

Unfortunately, most people judge their success (or lack of) by what they see around them. My children are in that realm. They see reality shows that show tremendous wealth, not many scruples, a lack of values and morals, and dysfunction that is seen as normal by today’s standards. I try to teach my children that those shows are not the norm, that there are ways to become successful, but a plan is needed to do so. Two of my children are in high school and they understand that an education is important. They understand that this sets the foundation for their future and that it is important to get good grades.

I believe that most people set benchmarks in their lives - in their careers, personal lives, personal finance, education and also in obtaining real estate. This helps to keep individuals on track and moving towards where you want to be in a certain number of years. As we embark on the New Year, remember it is a clean slate, and a new page on which to write the next chapter of your life. Do you have goals you'd like to accomplish in the coming year? With all the planning we do to be successful, why does success seem so elusive?

You can do it, get a pen and paper and write down 4 or 5 goals for the New Year. This is basically an action plan, so you must write down sub-sections of how you are going to do this. 

1.  Career -_________________________

How are you going to do this?  List below the steps needed in order to do this. 





2.  Relationship -__________________________





3.  Happiness -____________________________(What is going to make you happy)





4.  Financial -_____________________________






Put this on your refrigerator and look at it daily. It is nice to have a visual; it is a constant reminder of how you would like your year to transpire. Don't throw this activity aside, do not procrastinate. It is your life so make the best of it. Plan, plan and if necessary adjust those plans. If you need more money, find a way to get it. Get a second job, or find a hobby that you can create a stream of income from. Find your passion and capitalize on it. Don't whine and tell me it can't be done! It can. My father never graduated from High School and did very well for himself. It takes hard work, persistence and a whole lot of determination. Map out your goals and determine ways to reach them. Once you have determined your destination, its time to evaluate your current position and how you are going to achieve those goals.

Remember to make this New Year special; it is the start of your new life. Start with the traditional kiss at midnight for good luck as part of ringing in the New Year. We kiss those dearest at midnight not only to share a moment of celebration with our favorite people, but to ensure those affections and ties will continue throughout the next 12 months. To fail to kiss our significant other at the stroke of midnight would be to set the stage for a year of coldness. So, put on your favorite lip gloss and pucker up. You wouldn't want to take a chance with fate, now would you? Now if you are single, you must prepare prior to the big event. Position yourself in the room next to the most awesome person that you find attractive. Take a large gulp of courage, (I prefer a White Russian) and get as close to your target as you can, and let the kiss begin.


The Scottish song, Auld Lang Syne was first written in the 1700's. Robert Burns is the person whose transcription got the most attention, so that is why the song is associated with him. The translation of the words is "we'll drink a cup of kindness yet for times gone by." Yes, let go of the past, and bring forth a new year filled with hope and promise.


Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man. - Benjamin Franklin


by Beth Costanzo | Share Article | Email Article | Print Article


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