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April 24, 2012 3 min read
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| NEWS | STATE EDWATCH

Early Learning and the Kansas Economy

Do early-learning programs have a bigger pound-for-pound effect on economic activity in Kansas than transportation, construction, or the retail trade?

The answer is yes, at least according to new report from America’s Edge, a coalition of business leaders that focuses on getting children ready for the labor force. (America’s Edge is funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides support for Education Week‘s coverage of industry and innovation.)

The major finding: For every dollar spent on early-learning programs in Kansas, an economic benefit of 68 cents in additional spending is generated within the state. That matches the economic impact of farming, logging, hunting, and fishing, and beats out the impact of the retail trade (65 cents for every dollar spent), mining, oil and gas (49 cents), and manufacturing (46 cents).

Kansas would need to make an additional investment of $515 million in early-learning programs to ensure that “all Kansas children under age 5 have access to quality early care and education,” according to the report. But that investment in turn would generate $350 million in new spending in the Kansas economy. America’s Edge says that right now, the state funds $141 million in early-learning programs, generating an additional $96 million in economic activity.

Naturally enough, the study doesn’t have a section titled, “How Investments in Early Learning Fail to Help Kansas.” But one natural question is that if the K-12 system does not do a good job of building on what children get out of early-education programs, won’t the benefits to the children themselves largely fade? Or put another way, could the direct economic benefits America’s Edge describes be overshadowed by the K-12 system’s failure to build on such programs? And could the money be better invested in attempts to improve people’s parenting skills?

Of course, with state budgets still strapped, dropping an additional $515 million into one section of the state education department might be a hard sell for Kansas lawmakers. Between 2009 and 2011, for example, state funding for all education expenditures fell by $373 million, according to the state budget office.

—Andrew Ujifusa

| NEWS | DIGITAL EDUCATION

School Counselor Facebook Guide Released

With the prevalence of Facebook in students’ lives, and the growing public awareness of issues like cyberbullying, online privacy, and digital literacy, the American School Counselor Association has combined with iKeepSafe, an Internet-safety advocacy group, to publish a guide to help school counselors make sense of the platform and its on-campus impact.

“Facebook for School Counselors” is not actually a social media site, but a user guide, available for download, that offers tips for counselors to develop school policies, respond to online incidents that impact the school climate, help the community define dangerous online behavior, and educate students and staff about digital literacy.

A couple of points of note:

• The guide lists fake profiles and cyberbullying among the dangers to the campus climate, but shies away from addressing other potential hazards, such as students posting sexually suggestive or explicit photographs or videos, online criticism directed at faculty or staff, and social-media interactions between students and educators. Of course, a counselor’s primary concern is the welfare of students, so issues regarding staff might not always fall under a counselor’s authority.

• Online conflicts often have a face-to-face component, the guide suggests. While Facebook has tools available to report inappropriate behavior to the site, many times the issue can be resolved by bringing all the students involved into the same room and talking it through, it suggests.

At nine pages, the guide is a quick read. And if you’re looking for more resources for other educators, you might want to check out the Facebook for Educators website.

—Ian Quillen

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A version of this article appeared in the April 25, 2012 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week

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