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The Children’s Institute, Ready for School advocates and a broad range of partners worked together to win some huge victories for Oregon’s young children during the 2015 Oregon legislative session. We focused especially on three priorities, all of which won support from the Legislature for the 2015-2017 biennium:


  • Expanding Access to High Quality Preschool: A $27 million investment in high-quality preschool for more children from low-income Oregon families. The legislation allows a mix of preschool providers – Head Start programs, school districts and private community preschools – to receive state funding to help ensure that children from low-income families are ready for kindergarten and on track for long-lasting school success.


  • Expanding Evidence-Based Home Visiting: $9.5 million in evidence-based home-visiting programs for at-risk families of young children, from prenatally to three years old.


  • Expanding the Kindergarten Partnership & Innovation Fund: An additional $5 million to continue Oregon’s Kindergarten Partnership and Innovation Fund, which provides grant to communities and school districts to connect the early years to the early grades.


In addition to these successes, we are thrilled that the Legislature also made several other important investments in early learning, including supporting the rollout of full-day kindergarten, expanding access to subsidized child care and beginning pilot projects focused on chronic absence among Native American students and the achievement gap among children of color. Find out more on our post-session blog post.

Ready for School Policy News and Blogs

  • The 2016 legislative session: continuing to work for Oregon's underserved children

    rfs stacked one line outlinedOregon's 2016 legislative session begins on February 1 and the Children's Institute is already meeting with legislators and attending hearings to discuss issues impacting Oregon’s at-risk young children and families. We have developed an advocacy platform built on the foundation of our 2015 legislative victories.

    The Children’s Institute’s 2016 legislative priorities include:

    • Releasing the $17.5 million allocated to begin the Preschool Promise program and start providing preschool to more than 1,000 3- and 4-year-olds in the 2016-17 school year. Preschool Promise was created by the 2015 Oregon Legislature’s approval of House Bill 3380, which envisioned a future where all low-income children have access to a high-quality preschool that will meet their needs. Stakeholders have spent the past eight months fleshing out the details for how to spend this money, and now the Legislature must move the funds to the Early Learning Division of the Oregon Department of Education so that it can distribute the funds to the communities most ready to pilot the new approach.
    • Fixing a $5.2 million Head Start budgeting mistake. During the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers thought they were allocating $8.7 million to expand access to Head Start for low-income preschoolers. But due to a staff error in estimating the cost to continue the existing services, Head Start only received $3.5 million in new funding. This has left hundreds of Oregon’s most vulnerable children unserved.
    • Allocating $5.4 million to ensure young Oregon children who are identified with developmental delays get the help and services they need. Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education services help children from birth to five years old with a diagnosed developmental delay, along with their families. With Oregon’s commitment to universal developmental screenings, more children with delays are being identified earlier and accessing services. Unfortunately, funding for the program has remained essentially flat while the number of children and families served continues to grow. Intervening early saves money down the road in reduced special education costs.

    Through the Early Works program, the Children’s Institute has deepened our understanding of how important early learning opportunities are for Oregon’s young children. At Earl Boyles Elementary in east Portland, we see the smiling faces of 3- and 4-year-olds entering the preschool. And we hear from kindergarten teachers, reinforced by the data, about how dramatically preschool is improving these children’s school readiness. At Yoncalla Elementary in Yoncalla, we work with a wonderful community preschool struggling to meet growing parent demand while lacking local funding.

    These stories mirror communities across Oregon. Getting more children served in high-quality early learning remains a top priority for The Children’s Institute. We will be working throughout the legislative session over the next several weeks to urge legislators to continue making headway for Oregon’s youngest children. We will also continue to report on our progress and on developments during the session.

    Read more

  • State releases chronic absence data, will now release annually

    low 2014-05-29 041Last week, the Oregon Department of Education for the first time released detailed data on chronic absence of students in K-12 schools throughout the state.

    The release of the information – which will now happen annually – represents a major victory for Oregon education; the data will allow educators to better understand who is at risk for becoming chronically absent and where to target specific interventions that might help fix the problem.

    The Oregonian and theBend Bulletin both covered the release of the data last week; their articles included comments from Children’s Institute President and CEO Swati Adarkar.

    The release also is a landmark in a long process of Children’s Institute advocacy. The Children’s Institute and our partners – Upstream Public Health, the Chalkboard Project, Stand for Children, and the Oregon Business Association – have been working with ODE officials for months on this issue and encouraging release of the data.

    Chronic absence – defined as a student missing 10 percent or more of school days – is a significant problem in Oregon. And students who are chronically absent, especially in kindergarten and the early grades, are far more likely to drop out of high school. Simply by improving attendance in their early years of school, students can significantly increase their chances of graduating high school, attending college, and going on to reach their potential.

    That’s why understanding the problem with detailed data is so important.The new data provides chronic absence rates at the school district and school level, and will disaggregate these numbers to show chronic absence among racial, economic and other groups.

    “We know that good attendance habits established early on lead to later school success,” says Children’s Institute President and CEO Swati Adarkar. “With Oregon’s recent significant investment in full-day kindergarten, this a perfect opportunity to connect this data with improving student attendance and future student achievement.”

    Read more

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