Date: 10/01/2009

Update from Early Childhood Commission


Votes: View--> Action Taken:

10:36 AM -- Update from the Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission

The committee returned from its recess.

Representative Solano, chair of the Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission (commission) and Representative Peniston, commission member, came to the table to discuss the work of the commission and how that work overlaps with the committee's work. Representative Solano noted that the Colorado Children's Campaign is assisting the commission in carrying out its duties. She also noted that several members of the committee also serve on the commission.

10:39 AM

Representative Solano talked about the benefits of investing in early childhood education. She said investments in high-quality early childhood education are directly related to student achievement throughout a child's educational career. She said there is significant national research supporting this link and she talked about Colorado data around the success of the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP). Representative Solano said investment in early childhood education saves the state money in the long run. She cited national estimates that show a cost-savings ratio of between 1:4 and 1:7 dollars. She spoke specifically about corrections savings.

10:43 AM

Representative Solano provided a brief history of the commission and its work, saying it first examined program quality and business involvement. She explained that the commission later became involved in establishing the school readiness grant program. The most recent iteration of the commission, she said, created early childhood councils and the early childhood governance model that is currently being pursued by the Lieutenant Governor. Representative Solano said the current commission has explored what stable, high-quality early childhood programs do for children and families, including decreasing the achievement gap. She talked about seeing the CPP work in concert with other programs. She said the fact that early childhood programs are making an impact on the achievement gap should not be marginalized, and she reiterated that it saves the state dollars that would later be used on interventions that many times come too late.

10:48 AM

Representative Solano described themes seen by the current commission, including preparation of high-risk children for academic success. Representative Solano said the fastest growing population of people living in poverty are children ages 0 to 5. She talked about the impacts of poverty on children's development. She said the commission has focused on professional development, trying to raise the standards and professionalism in the early childhood education field, as well as recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers. She said the commission is looking at the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) and its interaction with other programs such as CPP and Head Start. She talked about the issue of stability for children, talking about aligning child care assistance funds with high-quality early childhood education programs. She talked about difficulties around families transitioning on and off child care assistance programs.

10:54 AM

She talked about federal funding opportunities around early childhood education. She said Race to the Top (RtT) does not mention the importance of early childhood education. She talked about the federal Early Learning Challenge Grants, and said she's talked to Congressman Polis about this opportunity for federal funding. She said she hopes the dialog with the committee will continue, saying quality early childhood education cannot be seen as an add-on or be marginalized because it is the foundation of education.

10:56 AM

Representative Massey said the commission has done a good job of raising awareness of the importance of early childhood education, but faces challenges in keeping the discussion going in this time of diminishing resources. Senator Bacon talked about issues around CCCAP, asking if a sliding scale could be considered for eligibility. Representative Solano said that issue has been a focus of commission discussions, noting that there are large disparities among counties. She said the commission is meeting on October 2, and said they will discuss what they can do legislatively to provide stability for children. Representative Peniston commented that when early childhood education cannot be fully funded by the state, the impact reaches beyond at-risk kids. When parents have to withdraw their children from programs because they cannot afford them, she said, the low enrollment causes a decline in quality which affects children remaining in the program. All children are at-risk, she said.

11:02 AM

Representative Middleton said one proposed committee bill expands the at-risk definition to include CPP-eligible children for a period of years. She also talked about struggles faced by teachers already in the system when changes are made to qualification rules, asking how those teachers can be helped. Representative Solano responded. Representative Benefield talked about how early childhood education systems educate parents, teaching them to be partners with educators, which helps children succeed. Representative Massey said the commission was also tasked with studying health and well-being, and said in that regard the commission overlaps with other committees as well.

11:08 AM

Senator Bacon talked about the importance of early childhood education and care and discussed the impact it has in other countries. He talked about challenges due to lack of resources and said other countries that have educational successes are interested in early childhood education and serve the child's health as well. Representative Middleton asked if the commission had discussed how to integrate early childhood funding into a P-20 system. Representative Massey said the commission had not discussed that issue specifically. Senator Hudak talked about high-quality full-day kindergarten, commenting that students who have been in a high-quality early education program who are put into a large half-day kindergarten class lose ground. She also talked about the need for adequate wrap-around services for students. She suggested adding Head Start eligibility to the bill that adds CPP eligibility to the definition of at-risk. Representative Middleton responded to Senator Hudak's comments.

11:15 AM

Representative Middleton talked about business involvement and the need for business community investment in expanding facilities. Representative Solano said the commission has discussed capital needs and has talked about the lack of space as a major impediment to adding full-day kindergarten.

11:19 AM

The committee recessed for lunch.