In the spring of 2003, the Connecticut Early Care and Education Working Group commissioned the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis to complete a report on the economic impact of the ECE industry in the state. The ECE Finance Project was supported by Connecticut Voices for Children which, building on work done at Cornell University through the Linking Child Care and Economic Development Initiative, had identified the ECE workforce and their contribution to the tax base but did not have a complete data picture. A team of 40 partners worked together to produce the Connecticut economic impact report with the intent of showing both the impact of the industry and its challenges. This template is now online and accessible to any interested users, nationwide: www.chefa.com.
The template was then utilized to model costs from proposed changes in Connecticut's early education and early care funding with regard to both workforce improvements and program expansion. This cost modeling was requested by the Early Childhood Education Cabinet in July 2006 as part of its Early Childhood Investment Framework: Ready by Five, Fine by Nine. The work was done by the Governor's Early Childhood Research & Policy Council and published in November of 2006 as Connecticut's first-ever Early Childhood Investment Plan, Part I.
Currently, the template is being improved and employed again to track progress over the first two years of the state's Early Childhood Investment Plan, Part I, and to create economic cost models for further improvements in the ECE sector in Connecticut. This work is based on several legislatively required plans, including the ECE Workforce Development Plan and the Preschool Facility Expansion Plan. A second version of the November 2006 Investment Plan will be issued in the fall of 2008 and utilized to inform gubernatorial and legislature budget planning for the coming biennium, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.
Using Economic Messages
Connecticut will be tracking the results of its economic investments on the projected reduction in Connecticut's persistent achievement gap, beginning in the 3rd and 4th grades. This evolving, multi-frame economic message framework reflects strategic communications research nationally as well as the unique experience and expertise within Connecticut over the past several years.
In establishing the Governor's Early Childhood Research and Policy Council, members were selected to enable the leadership from the business, economic development, workforce, education and philanthropic sectors to emerge as strong advocates for early childhood investment. In fact, Governor Rell did not place her designee as chair or co-chair of the Council but, rather, tapped a key business leader, a key philanthropic leader and a key higher education leader to serve as the Council's co-chairs. Additionally, in 2008, the Council formally engaged the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, a respected and highly visible nonprofit economic development organization, to provide staffing and technical support to the Council. By placing responsibility for cost modeling and economic analyses within the Council, the Governor has created the opportunity for the state to draw on the considerable expertise of these key sectors in planning for and monitoring the state's early childhood investment.
Developments are now underway that will further expand the critical leadership role of these sectors. In the current fiscal year, for example, the Cabinet will produce its first Strategic Communications Plan and will establish a public-private Strategic Communications Collaborative, and the Council will “rebase” the initial Investment Plan to guide cost and finance input into the next biennial budget.
Beyond just the application of an economic framework to analysis and priority setting, the Early Childhood Investment Initiative has formally partnered with the state's philanthropic community to substantially leverage state resource investments. Leadership in this work comes from one of the co-chairs of the Council, who also hosts the evolving Early Childhood Funders' Affinity Group, a working group of some 30 Connecticut foundations interested in expanding their early childhood investment at the state and local levels. As one example, a two-year Cabinet investment of $1,050,000 to support the development of community-based early childhood strategic plans was matched nearly dollar for dollar by the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund. Additional foundation funds were also directed at matching parental civic engagement grant awards.
Boosting the Economic Power of Early Care and Education: Key Highlights
In early 2004, then Lt. Governor M. Jodi Rell spoke at a forum hosted jointly by business, advocates and state agencies and keynoted by Arthur Rolnick, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, to present an economic investment framework for the state's evolving ECE work. Rell specifically urged the child development and economic development sectors to come together, find common language and explore ways in which investment in early childhood could be linked with investments in economic development.
In July of 2004, the Governor indicated that expanding access to quality Pre-K for all of the state's young children was one of her top three priorities. Together, the Governor and the Connecticut General Assembly made early childhood investment a priority in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 biennial budgets based on the Cabinet's Ready by Five, Fine by Nine framework and the Councilâ€™s Early Childhood Investment Plan, Part I.
In addition to this cross-branch, bi-partisan support, the Cabinet and its member agencies reached out to citizens and organizations to participate in development of its evolving plans and budget and implementation frameworks. Technology, including online listservs, listening forums, focus groups, and internet access to meeting minutes and discussion threads, has created a strong foundation to move Connecticut's ECE investment efforts forward. In addition, more than 1500 citizens participated in 20 Local Listening Forums held between 2006 and 2007 to solicit public input on the first Cabinet framework, Ready by Five and Fine by Nine, as well as the Cabinet's first strategic plan for the birth to three years, "First Words, First Steps." Using working groups to expand opportunities for participation, more than 100 citizens and organizations worked with the Cabinet in developing a broad series of plans, reports and working documents, all of which continues to be documented and publicly accessible on the Initiative's website.
Using existing networks has helped disseminate the economic impact message widely. The United Way of Connecticut and its 26 state chapters have made ECE one of their top issues, emphasizing the connection between the economic impact of ECE and the Born Learning campaign, especially with local business leaders. At the local level efforts have focused on leveraging new investments, especially from the community organizations and the business community. They have also worked with the state Cabinet on public involvement efforts such as hosting the listening forums.
Engaging the philanthropic community also brings a new set of resources to an ECE investment portfolio. The William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund is an important partner, not only in leading the Early Childhood Research and Policy Council, but in making ECE and school readiness a focus of the foundation's work. In 2001, the fund launched its Discovery Initiative which supports nearly 50 communities identified by the State Department of Education as having schools that need special attention. Grants from the fund support the development of community action plans, parent engagement and community efforts to support the early school success of all children. The Hartford Foundation has also made significant investments. The foundation's Child Care Enhancement Project invested $2 million over three years to strengthen the quality of child care centers in Hartford. Working across foundations, the Connecticut Council on Philanthropy recently identified $75 million in ongoing early childhood investments across a broad group of foundations.
The use of broad public events has also provided powerful opportunities to frame the economic and human benefits of early investment. On January 15, 2008, Governor Rell hosted the Governor's Early Childhood Summit: Investing in the First 1000 Days, with funding and other support from the National Governors Association. The Summit was hosted by a key Connecticut business, Northeast Utilities, keynoted by Dr. Jack Shonkoff of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, and generated an overflow audience. The program was broadcast live by the Connecticut Network via the Internet and then was rebroadcast around the state of Connecticut over the next several weeks. It also generated a series of key news articles and editorials, including a return on invest editorial in the Hartford Business Journal.
On September 22nd of this year, the Governor, the Kellogg Foundation and the Education Commission on the States hosted a large public forum to focus on linking “ready children to ready schools, PreK-3.” This forum was co-sponsored by four key K-12 education organizations: the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, and the two state teacher unions. This effort marks inclusion of Connecticut as one of five states selected by the Kellogg Foundation as a peer learning group examining key transition and alignment points between the ECE sector and the K-12 public schooling sector. By including attention to an economic framework in this work as well, Connecticut hopes to identify the economic benefits of well-aligned, intentional PreK-3 investments.
State and Legislative Actions
In February 2005, Governor Rell introduced her first biennial budget as Governor and called for establishment of an Early Childhood Investment Cabinet and an Early Childhood Research & Policy Council. The Connecticut General Assembly enacted a statute creating the Early Childhood Education Cabinet but did not act on the Research & Policy Council proposal. In February of 2006, Governor Rell created the Council by Executive Order (#13).
Building on this framework, in February 2006, Governor Rell charged the newly established Governorâ€™s Early Childhood Research & Policy Council to build a multi-year business plan for expansion of quality ECE in Connecticut, establish an Early Childhood Research Network, and conduct a series of studies that further explore: (a) the use of a business perspective in the development of strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the state's ECE industry and (b) the short-term return-on-investment gains from quality ECE provisions for vulnerable young children.
In 2005, the Early Childhood Education Cabinet was established by law to promote the well-being and development of all the state's young children. The Cabinet gathers input through public meetings and shared information with public and private partners. Cabinet members are defined in legislation and include state agencies, community representatives and legislative leaders. The work of the Cabinet focuses on children birth to 3rd grade. Work of the Cabinet includes defining the components of an ECE system, prioritizing areas for fiscal investment, securing co-investment, and tracking progress through public accountability processes.
In February 2006, the Governor utilized her authority to establish the Early Childhood Research and Policy Council for a five-year period under Executive Order #13. Its first product was the Connecticut Early Childhood Investment Plan, Part I, in November of 2006, an effort that was widely used by the executive and legislative branches in preparation and passage of the current biennial budget (2007-2008 and 2008-2009).
The 2007-2009 biennial budget, adopted by the 2007 Connecticut General Assembly, provided for substantial increases in early childhood health care, preschool program and facility expansion, the state's early intervention program, and investments in home visiting for vulnerable families. The budget also provided a large increase in funds for Cabinet use in promoting ECE quality improvements, accountability and data development, and local planning capacity. Specifically, fiscal support for the work of the Cabinet rose from $450,000 in each of SFY 06 and SFY 07 to $4 million in SFY 08 and SFY 09.
The 2007 session of the Connecticut General Assembly also resulted in a set of legislatively required planning documents, due over the period December 2007 through December 2008. These include an ECE Workforce Plan, a Preschool Facilities Plan, an ECE Quality Rating & Improvement Systems Plan, and a Cabinet Accountability Plan. The purpose of these plans is to guide early childhood economic investment and public accountability over the coming biennium.
Connecticut Early Childhood Partners website provides history and background on the state's effort to build a comprehensive ECE system. There are links and information on recent state actions and legislation.
Connecticut Voices for Children advocates for public investments and policies that promote the well-being of the state's children and families. The website has publications, advocacy information and link to other resources.
Early Childhood DataCONNections project is building the capacity of state government to collect, analyze and report relevant information on the needs of and services for young children, birth to age eight, and their families.
The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is a consortium of organizations and individuals committed improving the outcomes of young children and their families. The alliance oversees the Ready, Set, Grow ... CT Kids! The website also houses information and reports of the ECE Finance Project.