Thursday, February 23, 2017

Christina Weiland and colleagues publish new book on transforming childcare to make U.S. globally competitive

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Christina Weiland and four other leading education scholars published Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality (Russell Sage Foundation), drawing on a wealth of scientific and economic research to lay out the case that a comprehensive reimagining of America’s early childhood policies can improve its competitiveness in the global economy, from parental leave to childcare credits and subsidies to universal pre-K to a new formula for Head Start. The authors are Ajay Chaudry, Taryn Morrissey, Christina Weiland, and Hirokazu Yoshikawa.

Key findings and themes from the book include:

  • A comprehensive, unified solution to disparities in early childhood education: Rather than offering disparate, piecemeal policy solutions, the authors’ proposals work in tandem to show that there is a way to provide all Americans under the age of five with the care and education science shows is necessary to develop to full potential as an adult: 12-16 weeks of federally backed paid parental leave (more details expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (pp. 54; 157), universal pre-K starting at age 3 (pp. 159), and a reconceptualized Head Start that focuses health and education interventions for children under age 3 in areas of concentrated poverty (pp. 161).
  • Ivanka and Donald Trump’s childcare plan does little to expand access to opportunity: By contrast, the research shows the limitations of the Trumps’ plan, which mostly helps affluent parents who already have paid leave through their employers and who can benefit from a tax write-off for childcare care—doing nothing for parents in low-wage jobs. The authors’ proposals will reach the 40% of American children who don’t have access to quality childcare by covering moderate and low-income families as well. The authors are also available to comment on the problems with the Trumps’ plans in more depth.
  • Quality matters in early childhood interventions: While many scholars and advocates have encouraged the adoption of universal pre-K and other early childhood education programs, the book’s authors focus not just on access, but on quality. They find that quality of early childhood care is based on income, with the greatest gaps in home-based care (pp.47-48).
  • Inadequate support for young children hurts economic growth: The authors assemble some of the latest scientific research on the importance of quality education for children even before they enter kindergarten, and how American economic competitiveness is hurt by current federal policies that neglect children under the age of three—for example, by not providing paid leave to new parents.
  • Why universal pre-K can be a game changer for low-income families: In a startling finding, the research finds that the cost of preschool is higher than the cost of college in many states, so providing universal access can lead to tremendous gains in school performance for low-income children. For example, the authors found that the extra learning from high-quality universal preK programs effectively closed between 38 and 77 percent of the gap in kindergarten reading and math skills between children from the highest and lowest earning families.

The Russell Sage Foundation is the principal American foundation devoted exclusively to research in the social sciences. The Foundation is dedicated to strengthening the methods, data, and theoretical core of the social sciences as a means of improving social policies. The Foundation is a research center for a select group of Visiting Scholars each year, a funding source for studies by scholars at other academic and research institutions, and an active member of the nation's social science community. The Foundation also publishes, under its own imprint, the books that derive from the work of its grantees and Visiting Scholars.

Christina Weiland is Assistant Professor

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