Next month, 20 new governors and 16 re-elected governors will start their terms. Many of them made early-childhood education a part of their campaigns, and the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report Thursday with recommendations for an early-childhood agenda for these new leaders in 2019.
The report lists several things governors should do during their first 100 days in office to show a commitment to early-childhood education.
“We think it’s really important to set this from the beginning of an administration as a key priority,” said Simon Workman, the associate director for early-childhood policy at CAP and co-author of the report. “It’s not just a little side issue. This is a key part of helping the state’s economy [and] helping working families.”
The report calls for the creation of a combined office of early-childhood education that would include everything from health and human services to labor and employment. It also proposes that governors appoint an early-learning advisor to show their commitment to the cause.
Several of the recommendations are things you would expect. CAP calls for governors to include early-childhood education in their state of the state addresses and in their budgets. Under long-term goals, governors are advised to provide full-day universal preschool for all three- and four-year-old children and to provide high-quality, affordable child-care for all families.
But the report also recommends that governors analyze infant and maternal mortality rates and severe maternal morbidity rates. While this recommendation might seem like it has more to do with health than early-childhood education, Workman notes that the groundwork is set for early learning while a child is still in the womb.
“A baby’s brain gains one-third of its size in the last five weeks of pregnancy,” said Workman. “When children are born pre-term, they’re missing out on some critical brain development.”
As a way to combat pre-term births, the report recommends home visits for all families and the establishment of infant mortality and maternal mortality review committees. It argues that studying what caused these deaths should help states find ways to prevent them and related negative outcomes.
The report mentions that pre-term birth and birth complications are associated with “health and developmental challenges for children.” These challenges can cause learning difficulties when children begin child care or preschool.
The report also makes recommendations concerning the early-childhood workforce. It calls for governors to either establish workforce registries for early-childhood teachers or to incentivize workers to use the registries that are already in place. One suggested incentive calls for making participation a “formal component of the state’s quality rating and improvement system.”
These registries are databases of a state’s early-childhood workforce. They allow teachers to keep track of all their training, credentials, and work history. And, they help states get a general overview of their early-learning labor force, which can assist states in making policy.
“If you want to set policies in place that say we’re going to require higher credentials, a lot of states don’t know how far away they are from that goal,” said Workman. “Having all of that data in one workforce registry can really help and guide professional-development needs.”
Workman notes that such databases are routinely used in other professions such as law, but misperceptions about early-childhood teachers may be limiting their use in many states.
“It’s about changing people’s perception of what an early-childhood teacher is,” said Workman. “They’re not just babysitters. They are critical parts of helping to develop children and the workforce of the future.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.