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Hello to the Voices blog community! I am Angela Orkin, and I have been with Voices since September of last year. As advocates for children, it is important that we remember how the world looks from the view of a child. So from time to time, I’ll post stories that friends of Voices have shared about something they remember from their childhood. I’ll kick things off with a story of my own.

My father’s mother, Mimi, taught me that you don’t have to accept the expectations others have for you. We all have ideas about what it means to be 80 years old, but Mimi seemed oblivious to these expectations. When Mimi was in her early 80’s, as a dutiful granddaughter, I called her to check on her. After a few minutes, she interrupted me and said “Thank you so much for calling. I need to go now so I can visit some old people in the nursing home.”

About two years before Mimi passed away, she was referred to hospice for end of life care. One afternoon, after about two weeks of hospice “service” we got a call from the worker. She said, “we would really like to help your mother, but every time we try to visit, she is out!” Mimi refused to stop living because everyone expected her to throw in the towel. By the way she lived, Mimi taught me that you don’t have to conform your behavior to other people’s expectations. I was fortunate to learn this lesson as a child, and I have carried it with me since.

Angela

Angela Orkin
Director of Development and Strategic Planning
Voices for Georgia’s Children

The next constellation in the public policy sky may look like a baby crib.  This week two powerful organizations with strong business representation publicly underscored the need to invest in very young children.  Without it, they agree, we will not achieve higher graduation rates and work-ready young adults.  Furthermore, our businesses and government, meaning ultimately consumers and taxpayers, will pay more later.

On Monday the United Way Early Education Commission released its recommendations after 18 months of study.  Led by Dennis Lockhart, chair of the Atlanta Fed, and Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman, the Commission was clear that young children from birth to five must be a priority for Georgia, meaning that we must invest so that children are ready to learn by kindergarten and “reading to learn” by third grade.

Today, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education emailed the third edition of Economics of Education.  Introduced by a letter from the executives of GPEE and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the report lays out three critical issues related to success in education and workforce development.  The first issue, Early Life Experiences, included not only the need for our Georgia PreK program but for infant and maternal health, quality child care and family supports.

Before we “race to the top” in our K-12 schools, let’s be sure we get in shape before the starting line.  Healthy and ready preschoolers will make the race a whole lot easier.

Pat Willis, Executive Director, Voices for Georgia’s Children

Leaders of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which organized the drafting of the K-12 standards, told early-childhood experts in meetings and conference calls late last month that they hope to begin working on zero-to-5 standards within a couple of months

The move for K-12 Common Core Academic Standards has largely been embraced with governors from 48 states signing on to the effort. Now comes word of plans to work on standards for very young children.

A new article available on the EducationWeek website [Both Value & Harm Seen in K-3 Common Standards] addresses some of the potential good and potential pitfalls around standards for K-3 education and provides the above quote referencing the latest move to expand the standards even further to include the youngest children.

We know that ensuring all children are school-ready is important. Research is clear that our most vulnerable children start school already far behind their peers with limited vocabularies and limited social skills. Those children rarely catch-up. Will “standards” help? What are your thoughts?

Among other good news for children in the healthcare reform bill passed by Congress on March 23 is a commitment to reduce child abuse and neglect through home visitation programs.  The bill authorizes $1.5 billion over five years to be awarded as grants to states for services to families with infants and young children.  

Here’s the challenge for Georgia:  In order to receive funds the state must conduct assessments of factors indicating need for services and existing home visiting programs to ensure better targeting and coordination.   The assessments must be done within six months, and the clock started ticking on March 23. 

Which of our state agencies will step forward to lead this effort?  DFCS which has about $900,000 in one model of home visitation?  Public Health which is newly re-organizing with a strong interest but no designated funding?  The Governor’s Office for Children and Families which absorbed the Children’s Trust Fund , once but no longer a major source of home visiting funding?  The Department of Early Care and Learning which has an inherent interest in the age group but no history or funding for early intervention programs?

Georgia’s children desperately need these programs.  Child abuse is greatest among very young children.  Home visitation programs have proven to reduce child abuse and neglect and have promise of improving child development for later learning.  Advocates need to step up and encourage state agency leadership and collaboration to get these assessments done now.  The clock is ticking.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children, www.georgiavoices.org

FROM THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S LAW CENTER

Today thousands of advocates are joining together to “March Forth” in support of increased funding for child care, Head Start and child nutrition. This year’s action theme — “Families Earning, Children Learning” — reminds Congress of the importance of these programs for children, parents and our economic recovery.

Take action today by calling or e-mailing Congress.

To call your Members of Congress, use the script below and dial toll-free at 1-888-460-0813. The operator who answers the phone will ask which Senator or Representative you would like to speak to. To find out who your Senators and Representative are, search our directory.

When you’re connected with their offices, tell the staffers who answer the phone:

  • Hi, my name is __________. I’m a constituent. (If you are also a parent, child care provider, community leader, etc., feel free to mention that as well.)
  • I am calling because I believe child care, Head Start and child nutrition are essential programs for children and families. I urge the Senator/Representative to support the increases for these programs proposed in the President’s budget.

Remember to call back until you’ve spoken to the offices of your Representative and both of your Senators.

Here’s why you should take action right now:

Your Members of Congress have started to work on the federal budget, which determines a large chunk of funding for child care and early education programs, along with other programs that matter for women and families. By calling today, we can make sure that Congress knows that the increased investments proposed in the President’s budget are necessary.

The more calls and e-mails they get, the more pressure Congress will feel to support these vital programs. So please help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to friends, family and colleagues.

Thanks for Marching Forth with us!

Helen BlankBest wishes,

Helen Blank
Director, Leadership and Public Policy
National Women’s Law Center

P.S. For more information about the President’s budget proposal for child care and early education, check out our fact sheet and blog post.

P.P.S. Many thanks to our partner organization, AFSCME, for providing the toll-free number to reach Congress — 1-888-460-0813.

Why should Georgia invest in very young children, from birth to kindergarten?  At Voices’ 6th Annual Legislative Breakfast today we heard two strong and equally compelling reasons.  Because it’s good for the economy and it is certainly good for children.

Phil Peterson, Senior VP for Aon Consulting, made the business argument:  Our workforce is both shrinking and losing its competitiveness and early childhood development is essential to getting more kids through high school and college.  Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman College and co-chair of United Way’s Early Education Commission, centered her call to action on the faces of young people, both those who are thriving and those who are barely surviving, reminding us of the real opportunities to intervene early to help families and children.

I will update this blog with copies of Mr. Peterson’s slides in the next few days.  Meanwhile, some important links were suggested to reiterate the need for investment and advocacy for young children.  Mr. Peterson co-chairs PA’s Early Education Investment Commission and is on the advisory board to Partnership for America’s Economic Success.  He also partners with Mission: Readiness in its commitment to a more prepared military.  And don’t forget Voices’ blog which has featured a number of posts on early childhood and PreK.

Pat

Some say that Telluride is the next Aspen – ski resort turned thought leader.  I’m not a skier but I am a fan of the Telluride Standards, five principles for investing in early childhood education.  If you want to know more, register for Voices’ 6th annual Children’s Policy Watch at the Capitol on February 23 at 7:30 a.m. at the Freight Depot.  We have a breakfast buffet and a keynote speaker who knows the Telluride Principles from the inside. Phil Peterson, Senior VP of Aon Consulting, is also an Advisor to the Partnership for America’s Economic Success that developed the principles.  House member Penny Houston will give a legislative perspective and Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman and co-chair of the United Way Early Education Commission, will close with a call to action.

 Come and learn more!

Spent a day this week going through my wildly out-of-control email inbox and trying to catch-up on a few things – Okay, on a lot of things…my apologies to those of you who didn’t always get the most timely responses 😉

It was a lot of work, but I’m glad I did it. As overwhelmed as I feel by all the “updates” sent to me, the reality is they often provide great information. One I thought was particularly worth sharing came from Connect For Kids. They send biweekly email updates that cover a huge range of child advocacy topics. Apparently last year they counted the “hits” on each of the stories/links in those weekly updates and compiled a list of the most popular. Take a look at their website or go directly to any of the stories below that were of interest to folks all across the country.

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FROM CONNECT FOR KIDS:

The Most Popular Items from Updates in 2009

Overall, you clicked on funding alerts more than any other single category in the 2009 CFK Updates. It’s not really fair to single out a few feature items, but it is interesting. Here, in a nutshell, were your favorites:

“Quality must be the policy.”  That is one of the five tenets of Voices’ policy framework for very young children.  If we are going to invest in young children to achieve positive outcomes down the road, we must be committed to quality.  Indeed, the research shows that quality child care for disadvantaged children is what yields both personal achievements and government savings in the long term.  Poor child care can in fact be harmful.

In the 2011 budget submitted to the General Assembly last week, the Governor increased the number of PreK students to be served but did not increase the lottery funds to pay for it.  The per student allocation declined by $130 to $4169/year.  That amount is down from $4,410 in 2007.  To help fund the new 2000 slots, a vital support service for disadvantaged kids was eliminated – resource coordinators.  Resource coordinators, paid for by special grants given under defined guidelines, help low income families find the services they need for themselves and their children, including health, parent education, and referrals for job skills training and openings.  By supporting the family, the resource coordinators increase the likelihood of family stability and commitment to education when formal schooling begins.  Think of them as the equivalent of the graduation coaches funded in our middle and high schools to help children at risk to stay in school.

 This is lottery money, not general fund revenues.  Constitutionally, lottery funds can be spent only for PreK and scholarships.  Lottery income has remained strong and we have over $600 million in unrestricted reserves.  We can fund the resource coordinators and the additional students as well as help providers pay the full costs of the classroom.  There is no reason to shortchange this program.  Let’s keep quality in Georgia PreK!

Pat

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