The Learning Policy Institute, run by Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, released a report yesterday that talks a lot about the quality of Washington’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), our state’s preschool program. The short summary:
- The program is great.
- It doesn’t serve enough kids, because being great is really, really expensive.
You never agree with everything in one of these reports, and I have some quibbles about parts of it. They are confused about what kids and parents need and draw a distinction between “childcare” and “preschool.” We offer ECEAP to 3 and 4 year old children. It’s a program that happens during the daytime. Mostly it’s a half-day program, which is very difficult for single parents to manage. (Half-day programs are crazy-making if you are employed or in school.)
Many (perhaps most) working parents need childcare that extends significantly beyond the hours offered by preschool programs. Some parents need care in evenings or on weekends. Almost all will need care in the summer when many preschool programs aren’t running. (More on summer learning loss in another post coming soon.) We spend hundreds of millions a year providing childcare subsidies to parents as a result of the welfare reform changes that happened in the mid-90s in the Clinton administration. We will need to do this regardless of our investment in preschool.
Washington thinks that improving the quality of this care is really important, and we’re investing in that as a state. The report is somewhat dismissive of childcare investments, and this won’t be adequate if we’re trying to improve Kindergarten readiness in any broad way.
There have been a number of news pieces covering this release:
Education Week: Here’s What High Quality Preschool Looks Like in Real Life
StreetInsider.com: New Learning Policy Institute Report Highlights Key Strategies for Achieving High-Quality Preschool (this is a weird source, but that’s the Internet for you.)