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Early Care and Education

The early years in a child's life are the foundation for later social and cognitive development. Done well, early childhood education can help level the playing field, especially for low-income children, by boosting school performance and self-sufficiency over a lifetime.

Our goal is to create an early learning system in Utah that supports families by making sure they have high-quality options for their children's early care and learning—whether their children spend their days at home, in formal childcare, or with family and friends.

Education

Voices for Utah Children - Voices for Utah Children - Displaying items by tag: education

Voices for Utah Children works to make Utah a place where all children thrive. We start with one basic question: "Is it good for kids?" At Voices for Utah Children, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
  • Utah’s state budget  has been undermined due to a nearly 1200% increase in General Fund earmarks during the past decade. Earmarking ties policymakers’ hands so they can’t adapt the budget to the evolving needs of the state’s ever-growing and ever-changing economy and population. And these are "unfunded" earmarks, meaning that they do not come with a new funding source, even though they go to meet newly identified investment needs, primarily in transportation. Because they are unfunded, these earmarks divert resources from other critical priorities such as education, public safety, aid to the disabled and substance abuse treatment.  The impact of Utah’s earmarks explosion on disabled Utahns – thousands spend years waiting for urgently needed help. Due to the growing diversion of General Fund revenues, Utah is meeting only 15% of its drug treatment need.   How is the earmarks explosion affecting public safety?  Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project found that resource shortfalls are a factor in rising recidivism rates.   How is the earmarks explosion impacting Utah higher ed, where tuition is up 200% since 2000?   If the Education Fund is separate from the General Fund, how can the GF earmark explosion hurt K-12 education? Learn how by reading the complete report: What's still eating Utah's General Fund? The following essay was originally published as an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune: Op-ed: Children are the losers in Legislature’s earmarking trend Utah’s state budget has been undermined in the last decade by an increase in earmarks — from $42 million in Fiscal Year 2005 to over half a billion dollars in the FY 2015 budget approved by the Utah Legislature earlier this year. These earmarks have risen by almost 1,200 percent and now make up nearly one-fifth of Utah’s General Fund, an unprecedented level. This explosion of permanent earmarks diverting revenues from their intended purpose is a problem both in principle and as a practical matter. They are a problem in principle because they tie the hands of policymakers, denying them the flexibility to adjust course each year in response to the evolving needs of Utah’s growing economy and population. They are a problem in practical terms because they divert revenues that were originally meeting Utah’s urgent needs in areas where the state has consequently fallen behind such as education, public safety, aid to the disabled, and drug treatment. These earmarks are also "unfunded" earmarks in the sense that they were created without a new revenue source to finance them, even though they aim to meet newly identified public investment needs. The overwhelming majority of the new earmarks have been for transportation projects. Few would deny that new transit and highways are important. But the prudent way to pay for newly identified needs is to create a revenue source to finance them rather than diverting the funds from other critical needs that are less popular or politically influential, though they remain equally critical to the state’s future. These unfunded earmarks will continue diverting dollars from the General Fund indefinitely, because none of them has a sunset provision. Even if no new earmarks are created in future years, the amount of money diverted from the General Fund will continue to grow under current law. Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of the explosion of unfunded earmarks is that it’s not the first time that Utah’s policymakers have chosen "robbing Peter to pay Paul" over finding new revenue sources to keep up with the state’s growing needs. This recent diversion of General Fund dollars to transportation earmarks bears considerable resemblance to the 1996 decision to amend the state constitution to make it possible to divert K-12 education funds to pay for higher education instead. Prior to that time, Utah was ranked in the top 10 states for our K-12 education funding effort. Since then, we have fallen to about the national average in both our education funding effort and our graduation rates. In the most recent year for which data are available, the $252 million diverted from the Education Fund for higher education in FY 2012 was almost exactly equal to the amount it would have taken to boost Utah from 50th to 49th place in the nation in per-pupil K-12 education funding. For a state like ours, performing at about the national average should not be considered "good enough." It’s time for Utah to break a bad habit. The governor and Legislature should reverse course and make the decisions necessary to restore best practices in state budgeting and place the state and its future on firmer fiscal ground. For more information, see the complete report: What's still eating Utah's General Fund?

  • Salt Lake City – Utah’s unrestricted General Fund has been undermined due to a nearly 1200% increase in earmarks during the past decade. Over half a billion dollars from the state General Fund are earmarked in Fiscal Year 2015 compared to $42 million in Fiscal Year 2005, a rise from 2% to over 18% of the overall General Fund, according to a new report from Voices for Utah Children: What’s Still Eating Utah’s General Fund: How Unfunded Earmarks Are Undermining the Budget Process and Affecting Utah Families and Children. Most of these earmarks are dedicated to transportation, diverting resources from other priorities such as education, public safety, aid to the disabled and substance abuse treatment. All of these new earmarks are unfunded earmarks, meaning that none of them was created with a new revenue source to finance it, even though they address newly identified investment needs. Unfunded earmarks will continue diverting dollars from the General Fund indefinitely, because none of the major General Fund earmarks has a sunset provision. Even if no new earmarks are created in future years, the amount of money diverted from the General Fund will continue to grow under current law. “Earmarking ties policymakers’ hands so they can’t adapt to the evolving needs of the state’s ever-growing and ever-changing economy and population,” said Matthew Weinstein, State Priorities Partnership Director for Voices for Utah Children. Weinstein recommended that Utah lawmakers revisit earmark decisions and incorporate sunset provisions into all earmark legislation going forward. Weinstein continued, “The recent diversion of General Fund dollars to transportation earmarks bears considerable resemblance to the 1996 decision to divert Education Fund dollars to higher education. That’s why Utah is last place in the nation in per pupil funding for K-12 education. Robbing Peter to pay Paul has become an unfortunate pattern in Utah’s public finance decision-making.” For more information, see the complete report: What’s Still Eating Utah’s General Fund: How Unfunded Earmarks Are Undermining the Budget Process and Affecting Utah Families and Children.

  • How Unfunded Earmarks Are Undermining the Budget Process and Affecting Utah Families and Children Utah’s unrestricted General Fund continues to decline as a stable and reliable revenue source due to a nearly 1200% increase in earmarks from FY 2005 to FY 2015, from $42 million to over half a billion dollars, from 2% to over 18% of the overall General Fund and still rising. This practice of earmarking, which means a multi-year diversion of funds (and none of the major General Fund earmarks has a sunset provision), runs contrary to best practices in public budgeting because it ties the hands of policymakers and undermines their ability to use the annual budgeting process to meet the evolving needs of the state’s ever-growing and ever-changing economy and population. This explosion of earmarks has been primarily for the purpose of meeting the state’s transportation needs. The earmarks in question are all “unfunded” earmarks, meaning that none of them was created with a new revenue source to finance it, even though they address newly identified investments required to keep up with the state’s growing economy and population. This enormous diversion of resources has meant that everything else financed by the General Fund, including education, public safety, drug treatment, aid for the disabled, support for vulnerable families, and many more, has been given short shrift, leaving critical needs unmet and allowing the state to fall behind in a number of important areas, threatening to undermine progress toward the state’s most important goals. The rise of unfunded earmarks bears considerable resemblance to the decision made by an earlier generation of policy makers in 1996 to divert Education Fund revenues to fund higher education as well as K-12 education. The report concludes with a call for a return to best practices in the annual budgeting process so as to allow policymakers to adapt to changing circumstances in good times and bad. Read the complete report:What's Still Eating Utah's General Fund? What Does the General Fund Do? All Utahns benefit from an adequate General Fund. The state programs it pays for provide functional and efficient courts, a statewide system of colleges and universities, and the enforcement of rules regarding commercial transactions, environmental protection, water safety, control of contagious diseases, and much more. The GF also provides a safety net for families in need, including the disabled and those in need of drug treatment and mental health services.  

  • [View the story "#EveryDayCounts: Addressing Utah's High Chronic Absence Rate" on Storify]

  • Salt Lake City – National experts including Hedy Chang, Director of Attendance Works and Ralph Smith, Executive Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Director of the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading are convened today with concerned Utahns at the Every Day Counts Policy Forum to discuss evidence-based options to address chronic absences among Utah children.   Chronic absence, defined as missing 10 percent of the school year or more, is an early warning indicator of academic trouble. At the forum, Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer J. Cox will read a declaration from Governor Herbert announcing that September is School Attendance Awareness Month.  The declaration recognizes the connection between school attendance and academic achievement and acknowledges "systemic barriers” that may exacerbate the absenteeism problem among low-income and minority children, such as “unreliable transportation, lack of access to health care, or unstable housing or homelessness.” Students who are chronically absent are more likely to drop out of school. A recent study by Attendance Works compared absenteeism rates of 4th and 8th graders across the nation and found that Utah students had higher absenteeism rates than their peers nationwide; 23% of Utah 4th graders and 24% of Utah 8th graders were absent from school three or more days in the month prior to being surveyed compared to 19% and 20% nationally. “Once too many absences have occurred, it affects learning, regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused,” said Karen Crompton, CEO of Voices for Utah Children. A new report by Voices for Utah Children, Attendance and the Early Grades: A Two-Generation Issue, recommends policy solutions that address both children and their parents to remove barriers to school attendance.  “Chronic absence is a two-generation problem,” states the report.  “Policies that help parents keep kids in school, such as family leave polices and effective transportation systems; coupled with programs that help the child, such as attention to bullying; and improved policies at the school level, such as collecting the right data and working with families to identify barriers to school attendance will ensure that every child succeeds.“ The Voices for Utah Children report shows that attendance rates are uneven across school districts in Utah.  In 2013, the three school districts with the highest rates of chronic absence among elementary school students were in rural areas: Daggett District (35.5%), San Juan District (26.9%) and Tintic District (24.3%).   For more information, see the complete report: Attendance and the Early Grades: A Two-Generation Issue ###  

  • With Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, September 18, 6:00 pm-7:30 pm, Cottonwood Marketstreet Grill 2985 E Cottonwood Parkway  

  • Chronic Absence is a Two-Generation Problem Policies that help parents keep kids in school, such as family leave polices and effective transportation systems; coupled with programs that help the child, such as attention to bullying; and improved policies at the school level, such as collecting the right data and working with families to identify barriers to school attendance will ensure that every child succeeds. "The reality is an absence is an absence, excused or not,and that child is not in that classroom benefiting from the instruction on that day. We have to work in our community, with our schools and our families to build a culture of attendance." Ralph Smith, Executive Vice President, Annie E. Casey Foundation Download the printer-friendly report:Attendance and the Early Grades: A Two Generation Issue   Chronic absence, missing 10 percent of the school year or more, is an early warning indicator of academic trouble for students and later;dropout. Excused and unexcused absences easily add up to too much time lost in the classroom. Students are at risk academically if they miss 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days. Once too many absences have occurred, it affects learning, regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused. The map below shows the percent of elementary school students who were chonically absent in school year 2013. On average, no district had less than 90 percent of their students absent on a given day, despite exceptionally high rates of chronic absence in some schools and districts. Clearly, average daily attendance can mask a chronic absence problem. Reducing chronic absence can help close achievement gaps. Chronic absence especially affects achievement for low-income students who depend more on school for opportunities to learn. Because they are more likely to face systemic barriers to getting to school, low-income children, many of whom are children of color, have higher levels of chronic absence starting as early as kindergarten. A 2012 research brief by the Utah Education Policy Center that looked at the percent of chronically absent students by school year, found that kindergarten and first grade students tended to be chronically absent more often than their older elementary school peers. Further, on average, being chronically absent in one grade increased the odds of being chronically absent in the next grade by nearly 13 times. For each year that a student was chronically absent, his or her odds of dropping out nearly doubled. Studies from multiple states have shown that chronically absent high school students are less likely to graduate. Improving student attendance is an essential, cost-effective but often overlooked two-generation strategy for ensuring that students are on-track to learn and succeed, and to decrease the chance of living in poverty as adults. Chronic absence does not just affect the students who miss school. If too many students are chronically absent, it slows down instruction for other students, who must wait while the teacher repeats material for absentee students. This makes it harder for students to learn and teachers to teach. CHRONIC ABSENCE IS A RESULT OF A COMBINATION OF FACTORS: SCHOOL, FAMILY AND COMMUNITY All schools enroll some students who have injuries or illnesses leading to frequent absences, and schools should know who these students are and design individual strategies to support them. Schools where five percent of students are chronically absent do not have systemic attendance failures. However, in schools where 20 percent of students are chronically absent, the extent to which schools, families and communities each might play a contributing role needs to be considered. While illness is a leading factor in chronic early absence, others such as poverty, teenage parenting, single parenting, low maternal education levels, unemployment, poor maternal health, and household food insecurity all can affect school attendance. The 2012 Utah Education Policy Center Policy research brief found that students from low-income homes were 90 percent more likely to be chronically absent. Students who are absent from school miss opportunities to learn and develop positive relationships within the school community. During the early elementary school years, children develop important skills and approaches to learning that are critical for ongoing school success. Through their experiences in K-3 classrooms, children build academic, social-emotional and study skills. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten show lower levels of achievement in math, reading and general knowledge in first grade. Children who are homeless or formerly homeless experience poor educational outcomes related to school absenteeism and mobility. Other families may be dealing with serious problems (e.g. mental illness, child or domestic abuse, incarceration of a parent, etc.) that make school attendance difficult because family life has been disrupted and public agencies and schools lack a coordinated response. Chronic absenteeism also can result from poor quality education, ambivalence about or alienation from school, and chaotic school environments, including high rates of teacher turnover, disruptive classrooms and/or bullying. Improving student attendance is an essential, cost-effective but often overlooked strategy for ensuring our students are on-track to learn and succeed. While addressing some attendance barriers- such as health, poor transportation, and unstable housing- can require longer-term strategies, everyone can make a difference by helping students and families understand that going to school every day and avoiding absences whenever possible is critical to realizing success in school and success in life. Voices for Utah Children is proud to be a part of the Aspen Institute Ascend Network. The goal of the Aspen Institute Ascend Network is to mobilize empowered two-generation organizations and leaders to influence policy and practice changes that increase economic security, educational success, social capital, and health and well-being for children, parents, and their families. Learn more at http:/ /ascend.aspeninstitute.org/network

  •   Download and print the issue brief here: A Two Generation Strategy: Right from the Start This is the second in a series of issue briefs focused on two-generation strategies to reduce poverty supported by Ascend: the Aspen Institute. The first issue brief in this series is available here: A Two-Generation Approach to Ending Poverty in Utah   Full Text   Children raised in poverty are likely to be poor as adults. Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty necessitates a two-generation approach that meets the needs of vulnerable children and their parents together. Evidenced-based and effective interventions which promote a healthy pregnancy and lifestyle, effective parenting, parental education and training, self-sufficiency and early education can improve the economic prospects for the family, reduce child maltreatment and toxic stress, and improve long term educational and life outcomes for the child. A two-generation, multi-intervention strategy for single, first-time pregnant women in poverty is being developed by Salt Lake County. The three proposed interventions are:• Nurse Family Partnership• Education and training for the mother, and• Two years of high quality preschool for the child beginning at 3 years of age This combination of interventions is intended to improve the health of the mother and baby, reduce toxic stress, improve child welfare, economic self-sufficiency and the long term life prospects of the child. COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION Salt Lake County, the largest in Utah with a population of 1,032,2261, is planning to expand access to the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP). According to the County, approximately 1,100-1,500 women meet the eligibility requirements for NFP. However, only 100 women are currently being served. Nurse Family Partnership is an evidenced-based community health program that provides ongoing home visits from pregnancy through age 2 of the child by a registered nurse to low-income, first time mothers to provide the care and support that they need to have a healthy pregnancy, be a responsible and caring parent, and to become more economically self-sufficient. Outcomes associated with NFP include long-term family improvements in health, child welfare, education and self-sufficiency. More than 35 years of evidence from randomized, controlled trials prove this maternal health program’s effectiveness guiding low-income, first-time moms and their children to successful futures. By developing strong family foundations, the Nurse Family Partnership establishes better, safer, and stronger communities for generations to come. NFP assists clients in returning to their local high school, alternative high school (which usually offers childcare services), or obtaining a GED. They help them with their college applications and suggest ways to finance schooling either through scholarships or PELL grants. NFP also works with the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS) Education and Training programs. The nurses encourage their clients to utilize programs which assist financially with completion of a high school diploma, GED, or ESL. NFP encourages participants to use DWS career planning services, take advantage of DWS financial incentives for setting and achieving educational goals, as well as assistance with childcare whilecompleting their education. To supplement the education and training referrals performed by NFP, Salt Lake County plans to collaborate with the public libraries to offer Career Online High School to NFP participants in order to promote higher educational attainment and economic self-sufficiency. Career Online High School offers students the opportunity to earn an accredited high school diploma while learning real-world career skills. An accredited, private online school district, Career Online High School is specifically designed to re-engage adults into the education system and prepare them for entry into post-secondary education or the workforce. It is committed to preparing students for careers and post-secondary career education by delivering high-quality, supportive, and career-based online education. Career Online High School gives students the opportunity to earn an accredited high school diploma and credentialed career certificate. Students graduate with the tools to take the next step in their careers or career-education. COLLABORATION BETWEEN SALT LAKE COUNTY AND THE DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE SERVICES Salt Lake County and DWS will partner to expand access to Nurse Family Partnership, as well as education, training and employment opportunities for the participants. Through the intergenerational poverty focus of DWS, eligible women in Salt Lake County and those classified as living in “intergenerational poverty” will be the target population for the expansion. Additionally, DWS is interested in using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to increase access to NFP for this population. FINANCING STRATEGY Currently, funding for NFP in Salt Lake County is provided by County funds, Title V-Maternal and the Child Health Block Grant, a grant from the Department of Child and Family Services through the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) federal funding, and the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. To fund the expansion of NFP, Salt Lake County is exploring a blended funding strategy utilizing County funds, federal TANF funds through the collaboration with DWS, and investor funds through an innovative strategy called “Pay-for-Success” or social impact financing. Under a “Pay-for-Success” financing model, there is an arrangement between one or more government agencies and an external organization where the government specifies the outcomes and promises to pay the external organization a pre-agreed amount if it is able to achieve the outcomes.3 Private commercial and philanthropic investors provide the upfront capital through the external organization to expand services for proven interventions with effective track records that either achieve desired outcomes and/or reduce the cost of later services to government. Outcome measures, such as reduction in preterm births and the spacing of second births, as well as reductions in other areas such as child maltreatment and criminal justice, in the case of NFP, are established and agreed upon by the parties. If the performance measures are achieved, the County would pay back the investors with interest. However, if the outcomes are not achieved, the investors may lose all or some of their investment. Several states, including North Carolina and New York State, and local jurisdictions, such as San Francisco, are exploring the expansion of NFP through social impact financing. Salt Lake County participated in a proof of concept Results-Based Financing contract (a local term for Pay for Success) for high quality preschool in Utah for the 2013-2014 school year. Six hundred children who were identified as economically disadvantaged were funded through a Pay-for-Success contract. Goldman Sachs Bank and J.B. Pritzker provided the upfront investment. The United Way of Salt Lake and Salt Lake County provided the funds to repay the investors based on the performance metric of reducing the number of children funded through the contract who will need special education services in k-6. The project was announced during the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in June 2013. It is the first social impact loan in the U.S. to finance preschool. THE PAY FOR PERFORMANCE ACT On July 30, 2014, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee and Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), member of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the Pay-For-Performance Act. The legislation is a companion bill to the Young-Delaney Social Impact Bond Act in the House of Representatives. The Pay-for-Performance Act directs resources to states and local communities to support innovative public-private partnerships to tackle social and public health challenges, while ensuring a smarter, more efficient use of tax dollars. “The Pay-for-Performance Act gives policymakers a critical, evidence-based strategy for dealing with major societal challenges. By connecting the tools of impact investing to a ‘what works’ approach, this bill takes us one step closer to a smarter, leaner, results focused government. Senators Bennet and Hatch should be commended for providing a bi-partisan, national blueprint for cross sector investments in the outcomes our communities and country need.” Melody C. Barnes, former Director, White House Domestic Policy Council. CONCLUSION Although every birth is a major event and every child warrants special attention, home visiting for first time, low-income expectant mothers and their infants is especially beneficial because it provides information and support early in family formation and improves a woman’s ability to effectively parent. Combining home visitation with additional educational and improved employment opportunities leverages positive outcomes for both the mother and the child. Additionally, implementing or expanding home visiting programs may reduce costs and increase the efficiency of care delivery for managed care organizations (MCO’s) and other health insurance providers. Evidence based home visiting programs have been shown to reduce health care costs by preventing complications in pregnancy, reducing injuries and maltreatment, enhancing maternal and child health through prevention and early detection and promoting efficient use of the health care system. Two-generation approaches such as Nurse Family Partnership that include providing education and training for mothers are examples of strategies to meet the needs of vulnerable children and their parents.     Voices for Utah Children is proud to be a part of the Aspen Institute Ascend Network. The goal of theAspen Institute Ascend Network is to mobilize empowered two-generation organizations and leadersto influence policy and practice changes that increase economic security, educational success, socialcapital, and health and well-being for children, parents, and their families.Learn more at http://ascend.aspeninstitute.org/network                                

  • Voices for Utah Children’s long-standing track record of improving for the lives of kids and families has become even more focused on children’s early years as researchers have grown the science of early childhood development. National studies, and our own research on programs right here in Utah, show that high-quality preschool can close the achievement gap and significantly reduce remediation costs. Why do children need quality, early childhood education? The achievement gap starts early. By kindergarten, children from low-income families have approximately half the vocabulary of their more affluent counterparts. We know that children who start behind, stay behind. Children who are not proficient in reading by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than children who read at or above grade level — and 13 times more likely, if they live in poverty. A child’s brain grows to roughly 85 percent of its full capacity in the first five years of life. These are also the years when a child’s sense of what is possible is being formed. Business and military leaders, educators, and economists support preschool. The Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the United States Chamber of Commerce, found in a 2010 report that “for every dollar invested today, savings range from $2.50 to as much as $17 in the years ahead.” Research by the University of Chicago economist James J. Heckman, a Nobel laureate, points to a 7- to 10-percent annual return on investment in high-quality preschool. The parents of 42,000 children attending preschool in Utah support preschool. The parents of children on the waiting list statewide support preschool. Well-off, well-educated families, who can afford pre-K education are sending their children to preschool. We know that struggling families who are living in poverty, have modest educations, and live in challenged circumstances, can’t. In Utah: • Children in families at or above 200% poverty who are not in preschool:  53%* • Children in families below 200% poverty who are not in preschool:  69%*   You can see the success story for yourself. Just visit our website www.utahchildren.org and click on the “Watch Us on YouTube” to watch a five-minute video “Right from the Start” that we produced about the Granite District Preschool program. Hear from children who were considered very at-risk in preschool who at the time were in fourth grade and performing at or above students statewide. Hear them share their dreams for the future – college, becoming an airplane pilot, finding a cure for breast cancer and helping people learn to speak English.   Right from the Start    *Data Source: Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2005-07 to 2009-11 three-year American Community Survey.        

  •   [View the story "Are Utah kids today better off than kids 25 years ago?" on Storify]

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