Early Learning gets Positive Attention

If anyone doubted that early learning is rising in the public and political consciousness, consider recent developments: President Obama’s choice for secretary of education; Governor Palin’s proposed budget for FY 2010; and recent grants for early literacy opportunities. Find out how Best Beginnings will capitalize on these opportunities and step up the pace in 2009.

If anyone doubted that early learning is rising in the public and political consciousness, consider these developments:

The New York Times on Dec. 17 ran a terrific front-page article on President-elect Obama’s support for early childhood education. To quote:

“In the presidential debates, he [Obama] twice described it as among his highest priorities, and his choice for secretary of education, Arne Duncan, the Chicago schools superintendent, is a strong advocate for it.

“And the $10 billion Mr. Obama has pledged for early childhood education would amount to the largest new federal initiative for young children since Head Start began in 1965. Now, Head Start is a $7 billion federal program serving about 900,000 preschoolers.”

The article is an excellent primer for anyone new to the issue. Find it online at 

Governor Palin’s proposed budget for FY 2010 includes good news for Head Start and a new state-funded pilot preschool program. The $800,000 for Head Start would serve 60 to 80 children now on the waiting list. About 1,000 children in all are wait-listed, but this is a promising start. Alaska is currently one of only 12 states with no state preschool program. That will change if the legislature approves the Governor’s plan to spend $2 million for a pilot preschool program. The Governor also announced support for changing the eligibility guidelines for Denali KidCare. The change would make about 1,300 more children and about 225 more pregnant mothers eligible for Denali KidCare health coverage.

Best Beginnings has stepped up the pace, too. Thanks to grants from the Rasmuson Foundation and The CIRI Foundation, we are supporting early literacy opportunities for families by expanding Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to many more communities. To help us with this and other work, we hired a new project manager, Barbara Brown.

In addition to Imagination Library, we expect to launch two initiatives this year. One will support and promote the organization of local partnerships around early childhood development, and the other will be an organized effort to engage the business community as allies and advocates of early learning.

The issues we deal with can be complicated. I find it helpful, productive, and encouraging to remind myself of the basics. Our over-arching challenge has three parts:

  • Getting our arms around the big picture,
  • Identifying specific, on-the-ground, reality-based action paths, and
  • Developing a collective strategy for moving forward.

We are making gains on each of these. And much more progress is within our sights.



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