Obama’s Education Legacy For America’s Youngest Kids:
Too Little, Too Late
Even before new grant program got out the gate, however, it quickly became clear that its rollout was poorly timed. The administration’s prior RTT program achieved its greatest successes by spurring state legislatures to enact major policy changes—adopting federal standards, raising charter school caps, establishing new teacher evaluation systems—in order to better position themselves to win large pots of grant money. More than 20 states passed legislation to improve their RTT chances.
Early Learning Challenge, by contrast, has spurred only one state, Florida, to take legislative action. That’s because state legislatures weren’t made aware of the program’s details until it was too late. Because congressional budget negotiations dragged on until April, the administration didn’t announce the ELC program until late May and details of the program emerged only in July, after most state legislatures had adjourned. Moreover, the relatively modest amount of money in play (up to $100 million for the largest states) simply wasn’t enough to entice legislatures back into session.
The program has also been marred by a half-hearted public relations campaign. With state legislatures failing take up the issue, and Obama not finding much time to talk about it either, Early Learning Challenge has failed to spark the kind of national debate around early childhood education that Race to the Top did for school reform...