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In North Dakota, the parents of many soon-to-be kindergarten students in the state are getting some early education of their own — up to 16 weeks of programming on child development and the importance of school readiness.
In Minnesota, meanwhile, nearly 113,000 children and their families took part last school year in the state’s Early Childhood Family Education program, which offers everything from local parent-discussion groups and learning activities for children, to home visits and health and child-development screenings.
And this year, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn highlighted a new Birth-to-5 Initiative for his state, an early-childhood program that focuses in part on improving families’ access to community services and training opportunities.

While there may be three Rs in education, policymakers looking to create more high-paying jobs in their states are looking at the two Es—education and economic development. Patrice Cromwell, director of strategic initiatives for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said education and economic development are a natural fit.

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When it comes to offering 4-year-olds the chance to take part in early-childhood education, few states can boast a program as far-reaching as Wisconsin’s. And the state’s 4K program keeps on growing, according to new Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data.

The 2011-12 school year was a difficult one for pre-K advocates as state funding fell and after a decade of growth, pre-K enrollment stalled.

It is clear we need American students to be more than warehouses of knowledge and information as the expectation has been in the past.  As a nation we must bring our educational system up-to date so students also can apply knowledge and solve complex problems. This begins with high-quality early learning, continues through K-12 then continues until college completion and careers.  Students must be able to work not only independently, but also with each other; they also need to be able to communicate ideas effectively. In short, to be successful in today’s world, every student must graduate from high school college- and career-ready.  In order to ensure student success from early education through college completion and careers policymakers must address these 5 issues as legislatures begin this year.

CSG Director of Education Policy Pam Goins outlines the top five issues in education policy for 2014, including high quality early childhood education and funding, college- and career-readiness, K-12 assessment and accountability systems, the growing use of technology and digital learning, and degree attainment and college completion. 

While the results from pre-K education are well documented, the current funding and availability of early education varies widely.  The recent recession has made it difficult for states to continue funding state-run pre-K programs, resulting in a decrease of $442 in the average state pre-K funding per child. Enrollment in state-run pre-k programs has remained relatively flat.

November 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest » Preschool enrollment in Midwestern states (as % of state’s total population of 3- and 4-year-olds)
When Indiana Rep. Robert Behning was recently visiting a preschool, one of the instructors cited some alarming statistics.
The teacher pointed to three young African-American students. “She told me, ‘One of the three — if they don’t have the opportunity for a high-quality education in early childhood — [is likely to] end up in the criminal-justice system. Which one are you going to pick?’”
“No one wants to pick any of them,” Behning says. “It is much better for our society to provide early education and an opportunity to be a successful member of our community.”

During the 66th annual meeting of CSG West, the Education Committee held a session on pre-k education and rigorous academic standards and assessment systems, focusing on those practices in the western region. The session featured several representatives from national groups, including the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and Achieve, an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit education reform organization pushing for college- and career-readiness, as well as representatives from various state departments in the west.

On Wednesday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced the expansion of Alabama’s pre-kindergarten program. While HB 166 was signed into law in May, it has been getting more attention as Fiscal Year 2014 nears, the education budget will create 93 new grant recipients in pre-kindergarten programs throughout Alabama.

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