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Early Childhood Funders Collaborative Policy Statement

The Castle Foundation supports the creation and maintenance of state and federal policies which support children and families to achieve the social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills necessary to learn and grow. Investing in the healthy development of young children requires a commitment to working across domains including health, mental health, education, early intervention, food and nutrition, material health and child welfare to build an accountable, comprehensive seamless system of high quality service. To that end, we support Hawaii's Good Beginnings Alliance (state policy) and the work of the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative (federal policy) to ensure supportive public policies which, in partnership with philanthropy, families and communities can give children a more equitable start.

We adhere to the ECFC priorities, strategies and benchmarks as follows:

Priorities and Principles
  • Support all families with children prenatally through age eight, but first focus on those at greatest risk of failing to thrive and meet important developmental and educational milestones.
  • Ensure that all children are ready to succeed in school and in life by addressing the health and mental health needs of America's children and their parents in addition to investing in high quality early learning experiences for children from birth.
  • Invest in creating a flexible and responsive early learning system that includes new investments in Head Start and Early Head Start, prekindergarten and child care at the community level and funds both expansion and quality improvements.
  • Ensure that prekindergarten through third grade teachers and administrators work together across these grade levels, building strong connections and linking learning experiences across these critical years to build a foundation of seamless learning for children throughout their earliest years.
  • Maintain the 20% Title I set aside for low-performing schools, but encourage schools to use the funds to establish or improve prekindergarten programs.
  • Ensure that early childhood programs and policies are responsive to the cultural and linguistic needs of our diverse population of young children and their families.
  • The Foundation strives for high quality in everything it does so that the Foundation is synonymous with quality, transparency and responsiveness;
  • Create incentives for coordination and collaboration at the community level. quality services.

To achieve these goals, we recommend that federal spending be used to:

Increase quality of early care and education

  • Continue to increase investments in birth to five evidence-based high quality programs such as Early Head Start, Head Start, prekindergarten programs that demonstrate impact, and provide incentives for states to support full-day Kindergarten.
  • Create voluntary national program standards for quality early childhood education.
  • Make additional high quality training and professional development opportunities available to early care and education teachers and encourage two- and four-year colleges to work together to help early childhood teachers earn degrees and develop effective teaching competencies for a diverse child and family population.
  • Improve the pay, health care coverage, and leave policies for early childhood teachers and create compensation parity with public K-12 teachers.
  • Provide incentives and supports for states to develop, implement and continuously improve Quality Rating and Improvement Systems for early learning programs.

Improve integrated service delivery and coordination

  • Encourage early childhood programs to collaborate at the federal, state and community levels.
  • Support the development of data systems that identify where children birth to five are being served and the quality of those services as a baseline to measure future success in raising quality early childhood experiences for children who are at greatest risk of failing to thrive and achieve critical development and educational milestones.
  • Help states to effectively coordinate and blend where possible federal and state funding streams across early learning and child development systems such as Head Start, Early Head Start, Title 1, IDEA, Child Care, K-12 and Higher Education, Early Childhood Special Education, Early Intervention, Child Welfare, Maternal and Child Health, Food and Nutrition to increase and improve services to families.
  • Model interagency collaboration and leadership at the top levels of the federal government through effective partnership of the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Labor, and all other agencies providing a comprehensive array of resources and supports to children and families.

Encourage innovation and creative problem solving

  • Provide incentives and supports to the states through innovation grants to expand high quality early childhood programs and to improve their connection and integration with local public schools.
  • Reward states for creative approaches that are efficient in their operation and their use of funding streams, and that are accountable to measurements that ensure high quality services for children and families.
  • Encourage and support public/private partnerships that advance the broader early childhood agenda.

We feel that it is essential to create a set of benchmarks to measure progress toward the long-term priorities listed above. We offer our resources to work with the Presidential Early Learning Commission, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, and national and state early childhood leaders to host a series of meetings to develop clear and achievable benchmarks that will allow us to measure progress toward ensuring that all children are ready to succeed in school and in life. The benchmarks should include specific targets such as, but not exclusive to:

  • The number and percentage of children by age, race/ethnicity, income, and primary language served in high quality early childhood programs including but not limited to Early Head Start, Head Start, other publicly and privately funded child care and prekindergarten programs, and full-day Kindergarten.
  • The number and percentage of highly effective teachers who interact, teach, and care for children from birth to age eight, including those who can communicate in the languages of our children and families and movement toward parity in regard to salaries and benefits with teachers in the K-12 system.
  • The number and percentage of vulnerable children enrolled in high quality, full day early education and care including a high quality prekindergarten experience for three and four year olds and full-day Kindergarten.
  • The number and percentage of children screened for health and developmental outcomes, including mental health, starting at birth and at regular screenings including entry into Kindergarten and the percentage of children who receive services to address identified needs.
  • The number and percentage of children considered ready for school based on an agreed upon set of population-based readiness indicators.
  • The number and percentage of efficient, high quality programs and services for children and families as measured by Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) or similar tools and increasing the proportion of states engaged in continuous quality improvement efforts like QRIS.
  • The number and percentage of children who are reading at grade level by the end of Third Grade.*

* Research shows that by Fourth Grade a shift has occurred in academic skill development and most children are no longer learning to read but are reading to learn. While no single indicator exists to measure the many dimensions of healthy child development, focusing on fourth grade success provides the opportunity to assess the success of policies and programs targeting children aged birth through eight.

The ECFC stands ready to work with our partners in government at the federal and state levels and the nonprofit and business sectors to ensure that we use our collective wisdom, resources and political capital to reframe education as a right starting at birth and to establish a system of high quality, well funded services to support children and families.

Our leading partners are as follows:

  • Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families
  • Early Childhood Funders Collaborative
  • Aloha Foundation
  • Buffett Early Childhood Fund
  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation
  • The Commonwealth FundEarly Childhood Foundation
  • The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation
  • Foundation for Child Development
  • The George Gund Foundation
  • The Irving Harris Foundation
  • The Heinz Endowments
  • Lewis McWilliams Rollins Hubbard Family Foundation
  • Institute of Mental Hygiene W.K.
  • Kellogg Foundation
  • Kirlin Foundation
  • Kresge Foundation
  • A. L Mailman Family Foundation
  • McCormick Foundation
  • McKnight Foundation
  • Theodore Luce Charitable Trust
  • The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
  • Paso del Norte Health Foundation
  • The Peppercorn Foundation
  • Pew Center on the States
  • Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust
  • The Children's Initiative, A Project of the IB. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation
  • Pritzker Early Childhood FoundationThe Schott Foundation for Public Education
  • Schumann Fund for New Jersey
  • Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton
  • The Skillman Foundation
  • Wellspring Advisors, LLC
  • The William Penn Foundation