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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Members of Congress Introduce Early Learning Legislation

Members of Congress introduced the
Strong Start for America's Children Act, legislation that will allow more families to have access to high-quality early learning programs for children from birth to age five.  Ten young learners from Mr. Wagoner's class at AppleTree Early Learning PCS helped Senator Harkin introduce the legislation.  

PCSB Board Member Sara Mead provides a 
quick summary of the proposed legislation. 
  • Establishes a program of formula-based federal grants to states to support high-quality pre-k. Eligible states will be able to use the grants to expand access to pre-k for 4-year-olds from low-income families. Up to 20% of funds can also be used for quality improvement. States that serve all low-income 4-year-olds can expand the program to serve 3-year-olds, and states may also request permission to use up to 15% of funds for infants and toddlers. In order to be eligible for a grant, a state must have established comprehensive early learning and development standards and a state early learning advisory council, have a data system or plan to develop a data system that links pre-k with elementary and secondary data, and offer state-funded kindergarten. Federal funds would require a state match, starting at 10% match of federal funds in the first year a state receives a grant, and rising to 100% by the eighth year (meaning the state and federal government would split costs 50/50). 

  • Authorizes federal funding: The legislation would authorize $1.3 billion for the federal-state partnership in FY2014, $3.25 billion in FY2015, $5.75 billion in FY2016, $7.58 billion in FY2017, $8.96 billion in FY2018, and "such sums as may be necessary" through 2023. Note that these amounts are only authorizations, not appropriations. For any money to actually be made available, congress would have to appropriate it in the FY2014 appropriations (and/or subsequent years) appropriatons bills. 

  • Sets standards for high-quality pre-k that include: 1) Serve children ages 3 or 4 (including children who turn 5 after the cut-off for kindergarten eligibility), 2) Teachers have bachelor's degree with specialized training in early childhood education, 3) Maintain "evidence-based" class size and adult: child ratios; 3) Teacher salaries comparble to K-12 schools; 4) High-quality professional development for all staff; 5) Offer a full-day program; 6) Provide developmentally appropriate, evidence-based curricula and learning environments; 7) Monitoring and evaluation to support continuous improvement; 8) Comprehensive services including family engagement, nutrition, special education, and physical activity; 9) Meets education standards in Head Start Outcomes Framework; 10) Meets evidence-based health and safety standards. As part of a state application, a state must provide assurances that all pre-k programs in the state meet or will meet these standards. 

  • Establishes performance measures and targets for states that receive federal pre-k funds, that include: Increasing school readiness across all domains, narrowing school readiness gaps, increasing the number of pre-k programs meeting criteria for high-quality, increasing the number of low-income children in high-qulaity programs funded by this federal program, decreasing placement of children in elementary special education programs, decreasing grade retention in elementary school, avoiding chronic absence in pre-k programs, avoiding chronic absenteeism in pre-k, and providing high-quality nutrition and obesity prevention programs. 

  • Authorizes a competitive capacity-building grant program to enable states that do not meet requirements to receive formula grants to build capacity and infrastructure to support quality pre-k.  This program would require a 20% state match and be authorized at $750 million in FY2014. States could receive funds for up to three years. 

  • Establishes a process for Head Start programs in states or regions that achieve universal, high-quality pre-k for 4-year-olds to begin converting current Head Start slots to 3-year-old or Early Head Start slots, based on community need and with local engagement. 

  • Authorizes early learning quality partnership grants to improve the quality of infant and toddler care. These grants would support Early Head Start agencies to partner with center-based and family childcare providers to improve quality of care for infants and toddlers in these settings. This program, which was also included in the administration's FY2014 budget proposal but got less attention than the pre-k proposal, would build on an existing demonstration project involving 22 ARRA-funded Early Head Start grantees working in partnership with center-based childcare and family childcare providers. This program would be authorized at $1.4 billion for FY2014 in the House bill and $4 billion in the Senate version. 

  • Amends the Child Care and Develoment Block Grant to require states to: allow children who qualify for child care subsidy to continue receiving subsidy for a full year before redetermining eligibility (this will ensure that children can remain in a childcare placement for a full-year and assist programs in blending and braiding funds to support quality preschool and childcare), allow the Secretary to reserve $100 million to support childcare quality improvement, and require states to coordinate CCBD with other federal funding programs. 

Posted by: PCSB at 11 a.m.
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Senator Landrieu Visits Two Rivers

Senator Landrieu Visits Two Rivers!

"Two Rivers is a great example . . . you're one of the best schools in the whole city, and one of the best schools in the whole region." - Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu Visits Two Rivers!

This morning we were happy to host our friend, United States Senator Mary Landrieu! Senator Landrieu - who represents the state of Louisiana - played a key role in helping Two Rivers obtain our first facility.

This morning Senator Landrieu came back to see how our vibrant community has grown since the early days. The Senator participated in our elementary school community meeting - joining in during the greeting and initiative - and spoke to the community about her enthusiasm for Two Rivers. On Two Rivers' performance, she said "Two Rivers is a great example . . .you're one of the best schools in the whole city, and one of the best schools in the whole region. . . every child here is a model, so when you all do your best job, you help other children be able to have this opportunity."

Senator Landrieu took the time to thank teachers and families for their extraordinary leadership and engagement, and challenged the adults in the room to continue to push for great public schools. Senator Landrieu also expressed how pleased she is that Two Rivers plans to expand and serve more students.

It was an honor to have Senator Landrieu back and to witness her unflagging commitment to education and to our community at Two Rivers. Like so many of our parents, staff, leaders, and supporters, Senator Landrieu embodies what it means to be "the BOAT." We are grateful to have her as an advocate and as a member of our community of life-long learners and compassionate members of society.

To see more pictures from the senator's visit, see Two Rivers PCS Flickr page:  

Posted by: Two Rivers PCS at 7:31 p.m.
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Parents Meet With Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Leadership of the House Education and the Workforce Committee During Tour of Two Rivers PCS


A lot has been said about House Republican Leaders visiting Two Rivers yesterday, but we would like to shine a spotlight on our biggest and best supporters—parents!  Parents of students at Two Rivers PCS and Inspired Teaching Demonstration PCS told lawmakers how much they value school choice, the number of available options and school accountability.  The parents applauded PCSB and charter school leaders for their innovative educational approaches to engage students and parents, alike. 

The event was a big success and received an overwhelming amount of press coverage. 

To see pictures from the event, check out the Two Rivers Flickr page. 

Posted by: PCSB at 5:15 p.m.
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