The Report of the SREB Early Childhood Commission: Building a Strong Foundation | State Policy for Early Childhood Education

November 30, 2015

The SREB Early ChildhoodSREB Commission convened leaders from 16 states to recommend policies that will give more young children a solid start when they enter school. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear chaired the SREB Commission of legislators, heads of state school agencies and other advocates for early childhood education, which met in 2014 and 2015. Through presentations of the research on early childhood, the commissioners came to understand that while SREB states have led the nation in pre-K efforts for more than a decade, current knowledge compels states to do more for young children and their families and make some changes in their policies. Research now tells us that early conditions and experiences affect children’s brain development, which occurs rapidly in the early years. It also informs us about what works in the classroom and how to prepare early childhood teachers.

The commissioners learned that what we invest now in babies, toddlers and preschoolers is likely to pay off at higher rates than investments further down the education continuum. Policymakers with foresight can likely reduce the number of children who need remediation or special education services, improve the human capital of their state, and bring home long-term social and economic returns.

Is this idealistic? The economics of education tell us otherwise. As SREB states aim to increase high school graduation rates, college attainment, workforce readiness and annual earnings for their residents, investing in very young children can bring the biggest payoffs. For example, when children fail grades or require special education placement that a high-quality early childhood program could have prevented, it costs states for years to come.

The Commission’s recommendations focus on five areas that members agreed were high priority for SREB states. Commission members agreed that states need to promote high-quality programs and recognize the importance of highly skilled teachers. Then states need to improve access to these programs, especially for children facing risks. Fourth, states need to assess programs and reward quality. Finally, they need to better coordinate their various early childhood programs to take advantage of multiple funding streams and gain efficiencies.

Learn more about their key findings in the full report.

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