Bryan Boroughs, Director of Legislative Affairs and General Counsel
Early childhood policy is often torn between maximizing the impact of limited resources, versus measuring the outcomes that our investments create. A colleague recently described a series of assessments from her classroom, saying “we waste a lot of time on tests that could not do a single thing to help that child.” At the same time, officials at every level of government want to know that investments actually improve outcomes for young children. But every dollar spent on evaluations can seem like a dollar lost for important service delivery. Responding to that tension – between measuring and maximizing outcomes for young children – will be central to the federal government’s early childhood work in the months ahead.
It might appear, though, that the Presidential campaigns will consume our officials’ attention for the rest of the year. We do expect much of Congress’s work to focus only on so-called “must-pass” funding bills, but those funding decisions will strongly affect quality early care, education, and disability services across the country. Meanwhile, the Administration has less than a year left to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, which includes a number of early childhood provisions. The Administration is also in the process of deploying new regulations affecting Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant.
For each of these areas, officials hope to drive resources to things that work, and they’re targeting three key tools:
- Definitions of quality, targeting inputs necessary for success more effectively
- Outcomes-based financing structures, ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent on outcomes themselves
- Evidence-based policy, increasing the use of data to inform policy decisions.
We expect trends towards increased use of outcomes- and evidence-based policy tools to continue through the end of the year, and we are optimistic they will help drive taxpayer dollars towards better outcomes for young children.
Throughout this week, ICS staff members, based on their expertise and passions, will present their forecasts of upcoming trends in the field and future research and policy considerations. We invite you to share your reflections on these ideas, to learn more about our vision for 2016 and beyond in our annual report, and to check out our new video.