The Proposed Early Education Program
- It begins from birth (or earlier).
- It must target health and parent education as well as the child’s education. One of the factors that seem consistently to enhance early education efforts is home visits.
- It must be professionally run. The teachers and health care professionals have to be professionals, not neighborhood volunteers.
- Men must be attracted to do some of the work because many of the boys would do better with male supervision.
- Everyone in the program has to understand and embrace its goal that these kids are going to go to college or another form of post-secondary school and this is their first step.
The program also should cover enough hours—at least for children of two or older—to serve as a meaningful part of childcare for working parents. And it should be voluntary. Parents should have the right to opt out if they do not want the assistance, but participation should be the default option.
Assume that of the 4 million babies born in the United States each year, we are going to provide significantly more help to a million of them. During the first five years of life, we are going to give them a new program that provides health care and education both for them and for their parents. They will need that care and education in order to get them ready for kindergarten so they will not be behind kids that are better off and, especially for boys, so they will have the needed behavioral skills.
Assume that each year the public is going to need to spend an average of $14,000 on each such child (about 50% more than the cost of Head Start per child). Since the program is projected to cover five years, from birth to kindergarten, the total federal cost per year will be a little over $80 billion, net of the approximately $9 billion that Head Start currently costs, and it would cover something on the order of six times the number of children-years as Head Start.
Though the program needs federal funding, it should have local flexibility and a significant degree of local governance. We envision a program with local flexibility, as well a key role for non-profit foundations in providing quality control. In our formulation, the foundations also would have to provide a small percentage, say 10%, of the local program’s funding requirements. (Head Start often requires 20% to be provided locally.) That would ease the federal funding burden, but, more importantly, it would provide an interested overseer from outside the government. Local groups (that might include local school systems or other established education and care providers) could apply for the federal funding, but they could not do so without a committed non-profit foundation.
Annual review, measurement and public reporting are integral to each local program. Three annual reports on each local program would be required: One by the program itself, one by the supporting foundation, and one by a previously selected academic institution. All the reports would be filed with the government and would be publicly available online. The objective of this reporting regime would be to provide prompt feedback to the program administrators and a way for parents and the community as a whole to have input and to provide support or criticism. The program design is explained in more detail in Appendix F that is available on this website.
This program design permits communities to utilize and expand their existing local programs.
For more information about how the program would work and why it would be effective, please click on the link to buy the book.
To share your thoughts on the early education program, please go to join-the-conversation.org, where we would like to hear from you.