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Moving the Goal Posts: The Shift from Child Care Supply to Child Care Quality

December 1, 2010

Our latest report on early childhood education finds the original goals of 90s-era welfare reform produced state child care policies that had detrimental impacts on child care quality in Wisconsin and that may be difficult to reverse under the state's new quality ratings system.We find that as the child care subsidy system became operational, certain policy decisions produced results -- many of which were unintended -- that ended up boosting child care costs for the state while reducing child care quality. Those include: Creating a new, less regulated category of care provider, which was intended to allow parents broader choices in providers, quickly create jobs, and keep child care costs low for parents and the state.Sharing costs with parents by basing co-payments on the cost of care, as opposed to the parents' income, which would have allowed parents to opt for more costly care only if they wished to pay more out of pocket but which, ultimately, could not be implemented.Creating a more restrictive definition of "low-income," in order to serve the working poor in general, and not just those obtaining or seeking jobs as part of the W-2 program.Tying subsidy rates to prices in the private market, which was intended to provide low-income parents with access to the entire market while also relying on competition to keep the state's costs in check. Each of these four policies helped the state achieve its primary goal of providing a sufficient child care supply that would allow low-income parents to move from welfare to work, but at a high cost to the state and at the expense of quality within the child care market.

New regulations impacting school choice program: School closures up, number of new schools down

February 19, 2010

Between the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, fewer new schools joined the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) than ever before. In addition, 13 MPCP schools closed and another three schools merged - the most year-over-year closures the program has seen. In this 12th edition of the Public Policy Forum's annual census of MPCP schools, we find 112 schools are participating in the choice program, enrolling 21,062 students using taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers. The number of full-time equivalent students using vouchers is greater than in any other year of the program's 19-year history; however, there are fewer schools participating today than earlier this decade.

Milwaukee Public School teachers link preschool to better performance in Kindergarten

July 23, 2009

A survey of Milwaukee Kindergarten teachers finds nearly all (97%) report they can generally tell early in the school year which children attended preschool and which did not. Teachers also feel that those who attended preschool typically perform much better in Kindergarten and at least somewhat better after that. The survey of 77 teachers of five-year-old Kindergarten (K5) in the Milwaukee public school district (MPS) also finds that most teachers (93%) feel children with preschool or four-year-old Kindergarten (K4) backgrounds are somewhat to much better prepared to enter K5 than their peers. In addition, the majority (83%) feel spending time in preschool or K4 is very important prior to entering K5. These findings hold true for teachers in schools with higher-than-average enrollments of low-income children, as well as teachers in schools with fewer low-income children.

Preparing the Future Workforce: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Policy in K12 Education in Wisconsin

June 23, 2009

Last December, the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition - a national organization of more than 600 groups representing knowledge workers, educators, scientists, engineers, and technicians wrote to President-elect Obama urging him to "not lose sight of the critical role that STEM education plays in enabling the United States to remain the economic and technological leader of the 21st century global marketplace." While that imperative appears to have resonated in Washington, has it and should it resonate in Madison? This report attempts to answer that question by examining the extent to which STEM skills are a necessity for tomorrow's Wisconsin workforce, whether our schools are preparing students to be STEM-savvy workers, and where STEM falls in the state's list of educational priorities.