Why early childhood education is important

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November 3, 2014 by HCDE-Texas

earlychildhoodFrom presidential speeches to charity luncheons, improving early education seems to be on everyone’s agenda these days.

President Obama called for an increase in preschool education programs in 2013, referencing studies that promise future economic and social rewards for every dollar invested in quality early education. His multi-year, multi-billion dollar plan to expand pre-k programs and create new initiatives for even younger children continues to be a talking point for the White House.

It’s no wonder that politicians from both sides of the aisle jump onto this bandwagon.

Seventy percent of Americans favor using federal money to fund universal preschool, according to a Gallup poll released this year.

The movement isn’t just limited to school-based programs for 4-year-olds. Most states – including Texas –are applying more rigorous standards for commercial child care centers. Requirements include increased education levels and ongoing training for child care workers. Responsibility for regulating licensure requirements for child care centers in Texas falls to the Department of Family and Protective Services. The Texas Early Learning Council, a group appointed by the Governor, has developed infant, toddler and 3-year-old guidelines and training modules for child care workers titled “Little Texans. Big Futures.”

Here in Harris County, groups like the Texas Gulf Coast School Readiness Committee, the Collaborative for Children and the Early Matters coalition continue to strengthen the case for improving school readiness by enhancing the quality of early child care settings.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 57 percent of children under 5 are in the care of adults other than their parents during the work day. In the Texas Gulf Coast area, 35 percent of these children are enrolled in a center-based program such as public school pre-k, Head Start or commercial child care.* These statistics validate the growing concerns about the effectiveness of our preschool settings.

Here at HCDE, our efforts include oversight of Head Start programs in 16 locations across the county. We offer professional development to certified teachers and non-certified child care workers alike. Workshops like CIRCLE Early Literacy and Math Manipulatives are available regularly. Our home-grown Science Fiction workshops use children’s literature to teach science concepts.

Our annual R.T. Garcia Early Childhood Winter Conference is in its 29th year and is the largest conference of its kind in the state. Named for retired HCDE Trustee Ray Garcia, the conference is attended by teachers from Harris County and across the state on the last Saturday in January. National experts, children’s authors, musicians and vast numbers of local volunteer teachers present sessions designed to improve the quality of instruction in child care settings and school-based programs for children ages 3 to 8.

We hope to see you at this year’s conference Jan. 31! By the way, we’re sure you have your own opinion about early childhood education. Hope to hear from you soon.

*Center for Houston’s Future, Community Indicator Report 2012

 

About the Blogger:
Debra Anderson serves as curriculum director for Early Childhood and Special Education at Harris County Department of Education. She has almost 40 years of experience as teacher, coordinator and director of special education programs. She coordinates HCDE’s annual R.T. Garcia Early Childhood Winter Conference. Her passions are reading, travel and theater.

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