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Education Expert Predicts Potential Decline in Pre-K Enrollment Under Trump Administration

 

NPR Ed’s Claudio Sanchez knows education, and for that reason he--to a strikingly accurate degree--uses the start of the new year to make predictions on what to expect from education in the next 12 months.

Last year, for example, Sanchez predicted the nuances of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the increase of focus on charter school effectiveness and the diminished uproar/rebranding of the Common Core. 

Given his accuracy, the fact that one of Sanchez’s predictions for this year is that early education will suffer under a "leaner federal education budget" is a cause for concern.

While Donald Trump was campaigning for the presidency, he outlined his intentions to drastically reduce federal education funding in order to significantly return more power back to the states. While he initially indicated he would abolish the Department of Education altogether, his nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education indicates he doesn’t have any plans for an all-out war. Still, there’s good reason to believe he won’t follow in President Barack Obama’s footsteps of using federal funding to oversee sweeping education initiatives--including in the early education field.

"Remember that the Obama administration supported the expansion of quality preschool because of the social and academic benefits that the research is pointing to. This created incentives in many states to invest more of their own money in preschool programs by matching federal funds for programs targeting low-income children," Sanchez said.

"I predict that money for early childhood education is going to shrink, or worse, we could see cuts across the board that will result in a drop in pre-K enrollment in 2017."

This could also have negative implications for the federally funded national program, Head Start.

Just last month, a ground-breaking report found that while the federal early education program is working and boosting enrollment of young children in some states, its effectiveness is not consistent because of a series of challenges and obstacles.

One major obstacle, the report notes, is consistent low educator pay that inhibits the program’s potential to be high-quality.

"On average, Head Start teachers earned almost $24,000 less than public elementary school teachers with the same credentials. This discrepancy is even larger for Early Head Start teachers, who earned over $27,000 less than public elementary school teachers," the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers Graduate School of Education-produced report found.

Much earlier in the year, a similarly first-of-its-kind report found that early educators suffer due to low pay in all 50 states.

Calling itself the first comprehensive analysis of the country's early educator workforce, a University of California, Berkeley-produced report found that the median wage for early educators is just $9.77 an hour. For that reason, 46 percent of the early educator workforce belongs in a family that uses some sort of public assistance to make ends meet, like food stamps.

Together, the reports made recommendations like "establishing minimum educational requirements, creating compensation and benefit guidelines to ultimately raise early educator pay, and starting an educator workforce data."

These are hard things to prioritize, however, with a minimal budget and a lack of federal directive.

Sanchez admits he’s been wrong on a few things, like last year when he said that race-conscious admissions would be a thing of the past or that colleges and universities would finally be pressured to minimize student debt.

Hopefully, for the benefit of the nation’s youngest learners, a deprioritization of early education in 2017 is another thing Sanchez is wrong about.

Read the full list of Sanchez’s predictions here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

1/3/2017

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