Class was in session for governors from five states, and teams of state leaders from more than a dozen others, who met in Orlando, Fla., recently to discuss ways to build affordable, high-quality preschool systems during lean budget times.
Sponsored by the National Governors Association, the high-level meeting gave participants two days to talk about preschool options and afforded the governors opportunities to hear from experts.
"The bottom line is that in today's society, preschool has replaced kindergarten as the start of schooling," Dane Linn, the director of the education division of the NGA's Center for Best Practices, said in a press release about the event.
The Dec. 15-16 forum was hosted by Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, where voters in 2002 approved a statewide ballot initiative aimed at establishing prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds by 2005.
Unlike in Georgia, which has a lottery for pre-K programs, and in California, where tobacco taxes pay for early-childhood services, the law in Florida doesn't say how the program will be financed. The Florida board of education has formed an advisory council to recommend how the program should be designed and to investigate funding. Details of the advisory council's recommendations are available at www.upkcouncil.org.
While a variety of groups have recommended that preschool teachers be required to have bachelor's degrees, Gov. Bush noted at the conference that such an expectation might not be realistic, and that there might be other ways to develop high-quality programs.
The attendees also focused on the economic benefits of early-childhood-development programs. Art Rolnick, the senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, made a presentation on that topic.
In his work, Mr. Rolnick concludes that "well-focused investments in early childhood" tend to bring higher public benefits than many other projects meant to produce economic growth, such as subsidizing private businesses and building office towers and sports stadiums. An article on the topic is available online at www.minneapolisfed.org.
More information on pre-K education also is available from the Pew Charitable Trusts, which was involved in the NGA conference, at www.pewtrusts.com.
Vol. 23, Issue 16, Page 19