Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Promises in Early Care and Education

by Sara Slaughter, Director, Education Program

"What makes America exceptional isn't just the size of our economy or our influence around the globe. [It's] the promise we make to our children; the idea that no matter who they are, what they look like, where they start, how much their parents earn, they can make it if they try. It’s the essential promise of America -- that where you start should not and will not determine how far you can go."
-- President Obama, December 10, 2014

On Wednesday, December 10, President Obama hosted a White House Summit on Early Care and Education. At the event, President Obama announced new federal and private sector investments in early childhood totaling $1 billion.

"This issue is bigger than politics," President Obama said. "It’s an American issue."

The Obama administration will be investing $750 million from federal resources to early care and education, which includes $226 million to eighteen states under the Preschool Development Grants program. As one of the winning states, Illinois will receive a $20 million grant in 2014, renewable for three additional years. 


In addition to these federal investments, corporate and philanthropic organizations from across the nation will devote over $330 million in new funding. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Grand Victoria Foundation and the Irving Harris Foundation are coming together to invest at least $7 million in new funds to better our children’s early learning experiences. The McCormick Foundation has committed approximately $2 million in new investments to leverage federal investments in 2015.

There is widespread consensus that investing in high-quality early care and education yields one of the highest returns on investment we can make. That is one of the reasons this issue has enjoyed bi-partisan support for State investments in an early childhood system that values high-quality services for pregnant women and children from birth to age eight and their families. A national survey conducted by the First Five Years Fund showed that 71% of voters – including 60% of Republicans – support increased federal investments in early care and education. Effectively leveraging public dollars to expand high-quality, comprehensive early learning programs and services will result in the highest quality care and services for the country’s most vulnerable families. Together, we can ensure that all children, especially those at most risk, have access to high-quality, comprehensive early childhood programs that support their families and prepare them for success in school and in life. 


Monday, December 8, 2014

Illinois Voters Voice Strong Support for Civic Education Requirements

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning & Engagement Scholar, Robert R. McCormick Foundation

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute (PSPPI) conducted its annual statewide poll from September 23 through October 15, 2014. The poll included three questions pertaining to civic education which mirror recommendations of the Illinois Task Force on Civic Education that would require legislative action by the Illinois General Assembly. They encompass a required civics or government course for high school graduation, along with student service projects in both middle and high school.

Based on a poll of 1,006 registered voters across Illinois, and with a margin of error of plus or minus three-percent, PSPPI found broad support for these recommended civic education requirements. The high school civics course polled best, with more than three-quarters of respondents favoring it strongly (56.6%; see Figure 1) or somewhat (22.9%).

Figure 1: Would you favor or oppose a proposal to require all Illinois high school students to take or pass a civics or government course in order to graduate?

More than two-thirds of survey respondents strongly (45.1%; see Figure 2) or somewhat (22.7%) favored a required service project for high school graduation. Support fell slightly for a similar requirement at the middle school level (33.8% favored strongly and 22.5% somewhat).


Figure 2: Would you favor or oppose a proposal to require all Illinois students to complete a community service project in order to complete middle of high school?