When Governor Kitzhaber resigned last week, Oregon lost the extraordinary vision and leadership of one of the foremost early childhood advocates in the nation. His understanding of early childhood education and clear and courageous diagnosis of and prescription for how to chart a new course for Oregon through health and education reforms was unmatched by any other governor I have seen in my time as an advocate for children.
The circumstances surrounding this decision have saddened us all.
But even as we are deeply disappointed, the Children's Institute remains steadfast in our mission to ensure more children in Oregon receive high-quality early learning. We will continue to be unwavering in our advocacy for needed investments now while reminding everyone of the cost of inaction.
The needs of Oregon’s children haven’t changed. The Children’s Institute will continue to advocate during the 2015 legislative session for the following priority investments focused on kindergarten readiness and third grade success.
We advocate a $30 million investment in high-quality preschool during the 2015-2017 biennium to reach more of Oregon’s vulnerable kids – in particular low-income kids who stand to gain the most. The investment would align with our existing Oregon Head Start Pre-K program and bring together a range of eligible providers (child care, schools, Head Start) to create a cohesive state preschool approach to reach a wider range of kids.
Invest in evidence-based home visiting
We advocate a $10 million expansion of home visiting services to ensure more at-risk infants and toddlers and their families receive services during the critical brain development years that begin prenatally. High-quality home visiting services improve health outcomes and support strong parent-child relationships, and increase school readiness.
Kindergarten Partnership and Innovation Fund
We advocate a $9 million expansion of the Kindergarten Partnership and Innovation Fund, which provides grants to connect the early years to the early grades. Sixteen communities are currently using their grants to conduct family engagement workshops, summer literacy programs and kindergarten transition programs. A modest additional investment means this good work can continue and expand.
The Children’s Institute will continue to work with the Oregon Legislature, while forging a strong relationship with the incoming governor, current Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, who takes office tomorrow. She has a strong record as a children's advocate in her more than two decades in public office in Oregon.
Our children can’t wait. Making these modest investments will ensure that more of Oregon’s children will be on track in their development, prepared for kindergarten and successful learners by third grade.