All appearances to the contrary, we hate bad news as much as anyone. It’s just that these days, selecting topics to blog on typically leaves us with a choice between the bad (the budget) and the ugly (the economy) (or is it the other way around?). Therefore, it truly is a pleasure to call attention to the good, in the form of two recent reports that shine a spotlight on an area where Oklahoma truly excelled: investing in early childhood care and education.
In March, the National Child Care Resource and Referral Association issued a report evaluating the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Defense, on regulation and oversight of child care facilities based on 15 benchmarks. Oklahoma was ranked third in the nation (tied with Tennessee), earning an overall score of 71 percent. The state won high marks for frequency of inspections, health and safety training of staff, and parental involvement, but was found lacking in credentialing of lead teachers and background check procedures. Oklahoma is the only state in the country that requires three monitoring visits per year for each child care facility.
The child care report was followed by the annual Pre-School Yearbook report issued by the National Institute for Early Education Research. Once again, Oklahoma’s efforts to provide broad-based, high-quality instruction to 4-year old children have earned the state national acclaim.
Among the report’s findings:
- 99 percent of school districts in the state offer 4-year old programs, which puts Oklahoma #1 in the nation;
- Oklahoma spends $7,484 per child enrolled in early childhood education programs, 8th highest in the nation; and
- Of ten quality standard benchmarks, Oklahoma meets nine, including comprehensive early learning standards, professional and specialized teacher training, and small class sizes. The only benchmark not met in Oklahoma is requiring a CDA (entry-level credential) or equivalent for assistant teachers.
Building on partnerships between government, the public sector, and philanthropy, Oklahoma has made strong and smart public investments in early childhood education, in ways that a growing body of research shows can make lasting differences for the lifelong achievement of children.
Now, as an editorial in the Oklahoman noted, budget cuts are already threatening early childhood programs in at least nine… well, for a change, the gathering dark clouds will just have to wait.