A Look Ahead for the Early Childhood State Advisory Councils
By Ngozi Onunaku, Senior Policy Analyst for Early Childhood Development
Approximately three years ago, $100 million in federal funds were made available to support State Advisory Councils. The grants were designed to be one-time startup grants to help states and territories (states) develop their respective early childhood systems.
States used the funds to promote school preparedness of young children, for instance, by engaging families in activities to improve children's early social, emotional, and cognitive development. States directed council funds to support the professional development of early childhood educators to improve the skills of the early childhood professionals. States also invested in improving the quality and capacity of existing early childhood education and development programs and services. The Early Childhood State Advisory Councils Status Report 2013 describes the progress of each council in detail.
States did not make these accomplishments with federal dollars alone. In fact, in accordance with the federal statute, states provided a 70 percent match to the 30 percent federal share. States leveraged the support of private grants and state revenue such as state pre-k, tobacco, and lottery as sources of match.
The law also required states to develop a plan to sustain council funds after federal support ended. All developed plans, however, some chose to tackle the issue head on by strategically investing council funds in areas like workforce development, program quality, technology, data systems development. Others worked with state legislatures and governors to get state laws passed or executive orders signed to keep the council work going for a longer period of time. Others sought out and obtained partnerships, (e.g. public - private partnerships) to join and invest in the state’s council work. Whether implemented unilaterally or through a combined approach, each effort built early childhood infrastructure in states and will help sustain the councils’ work for years to come.
As federal council grants wind down this year, statues continue to grapple with ideas to promote council sustainability. Some have chosen to leverage their Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge and federal home visiting grants. Others have developed local council structures to sustain council work at the community level, while others are narrowing their focus on specific topics such as early childhood health or home visiting.
The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Interdepartmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development (ECD) promotes a joint approach to improving the availability of high quality early learning and development programs. We are made up of the Office of Head Start, the Office of Child Care, and the Interagency Team.
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