State Boards and the Governance of Early Childhood Education
As the definition of education has expanded to include the years before kindergarten, so too has the role of state boards of education. Boards now play an expanded and essential role in supporting the early childhood system. That role can vary substantially across states and evolve within states, making it important for board members to stay informed about developments in the early childhood system. And state board members should be ready for their role to shift dramatically if their state decides to change how it governs early childhood.
The early years matter a great deal to the overall education system. If a cohort of children is more than a year behind at the end of second grade, only 15 percent of school districts in the country can get that cohort caught up by the end of high school. Partly for this reason, states have increasingly emphasized the value of publicly funded early education and care.
Early education and care comes in many forms, and in most states different government agencies oversee key pieces of it. There are good reasons the system was built that way—and there are good reasons states are remaking it. In the years ahead, state boards’ role will continue to evolve, and state boards can take important steps to make that evolution a success.
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