Promoting Early Learning Opportunities

 Goal: Increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities for all students.                                                                                                       

The Challenge:

The American South has one significant advantage in the area of education: It provides publically supported early childhood education to more children than any other region in the country.  Post-recession budget deficits however threaten nearly a decade’s worth of progress in expanding early childhood access and improved student achievement.  Coupled with the growing number of high-needs children in the region, there is a need for both greater investment in early childhood education as well as the development of policies and strategies that help increase participation of poor and minority children in high-quality programming.  State leaders are in need of finding new ways to develop higher quality programming, blend and braid funding streams, and align systems from the top down to ensure all children aged birth-to-eight have equitable opportunities to learn.

Decades of studying the link between poverty and education have confirmed for SEF high-quality early childhood programs may be the single best investment for getting young children, especially the growing at-risk population, to be school-ready and succeed.  SEF has been a leader in the region in telling the story of why early learning investment matters and the potential impact it can have on student outcomes and state economies.

Our Strategy:

  • Providing research, technical assistance and tools: uncovering early education trends, impact, and best practices in financing and aligning early education systems (birth-to-eight) stakeholders can use for informing policymaking decisions;
  • Creating opportunity for cross-state collaboration: sharing information related to strategies for equitably raising the quality of early learning systems without lowering access; and
  • Building community awareness and support: bringing new partners to the table and ensuring current stakeholders and allies are working more strategically together.

Areas of Focus:

Pre-K Advocacy & Policy Analysis
SEF has led the region in analyzing pre-Kindergarten access and funding trends, documenting its short- and long-term economic impact, and raising community support for the continued development of quality programming region-wide.    


Resources and Tools:

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book. | Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2014).
Mississippi finally funds statewide pre-K but only for six percent of its youngest learners. | The Hechinger Report. (March 23, 2014).
The Importance of pre-K video. | Southern Education Foundation. (2013).
The State of Preschool 2013. | National Institute for Early Education Research. (2013).
The Promise of Georgia Pre-K Update. | Southern Education Foundation. (2010).
Pre-K in the South Update:Preserving the Region's Comparative Advantage in Education. | Southern Education Foundation. (2010).
Miles to Go Mississippi Update: Improving Education and the Economy from the Start. | Southern Education Foundation. (2009).

Learn More from the Field:

National Organizations       
National Institute for Early Education Research    
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
First Five Years Fund
BUILD Initiative
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Southern Organizations                                                           
Alabama School Readiness Alliance
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
Voices for Georgia's Children, Georgia Birth to Five Coalition
Institute for Child Success
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, UNC Chapel Hill
Excel by 5: Early Childhood Institute
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