Early childhood education, all too often left out of discussions on the P-20 education continuum, has certainly gotten substantial play in 2012 state of the state addresses. Governors' proposals are aimed at a variety of P-3 issues, including prekindergarten and school readiness, funding, state governance of early childhood programs, young children's health and mental health, and more. Because so many 2012 state of the state addresses entered the P-3 arena, the following are just a sampling. More 2012 proposals and accomplishments in a subsequent post.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced in his 2012 state of the state address that the Commonwealth will "continue restructuring ... preschool and day-care programs to ensure every child is mentally and physically prepared for kindergarten". The governor urged the legislature to statutorily establish the Early Childhood Advisory Council he created in 2011 through executive order. And Governor Beshear noted Kentucky will continue searching for funding to expand "access to high-quality early education and care programs". (The governor did not mention his prior commitment to finding external funding for early learning programs, including via the issuance of a 2008 executive order creating the state Commission on Philanthropy to explore foundation funding for state challenges, with an initial focus on early childhood education and child health.)
Touting in his State of the District address that D.C. was the first city in the county to offer universal pre-K, and that the city is "now ranked #1 in the nation in pre-kindergarten enrollment", Mayor Gray proposed that D.C. "expand access to universal, high-quality infant and toddler care." The mayor also stated that the state-of-the-art Educare Center will be an incubator for and testing ground "best practices about early childhood development that" will later undergo broader implementation "in a coordinated, citywide strategy."
In his first state of the state, newly-inaugurated Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant proposed initiatives targeted at improving child care quality, including "monitoring the learning opportunities in licensed child care centers". He also proposed combining the functions of the department of health and department of human services to create a division of early childhood learning under the department of human services, to "streamline services and improve [the state's] ability to identify the quality of programs for early childhood learning." However, the governor made clear that he does not want to reinvent the wheel when determining what quality early childhood programs look like. He declared that over the coming year, the state will "gather additional information from ongoing programs such as Building Blocks, Excel by 5, Allies for Quality Childcare Project, and the Quality Rating System, that will give us the metrics we need to determine the best practices for Early Childhood Learning."
Does the preponderance of P-3 proposals portend that early learning will no longer be the ugly stepchild of the P-20 continuum? Perhaps. ECS called it early on in its 12 for 2012 report released last month--the time is ripe to shift our thinking to P-3.