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Think You Can Ignore Early Ed in 2011? Better Think Twice!

So the CW in Washington these days is that early ed issues are "out" (in the words of eduflack Patrick Riccards) and that, with early ed advocates having lost key battles in 2010, and the incoming Tea Party Congress no fan of guv'mint-funded early childhood programs, nobody should expect much action on early ed in 2011.

Not so fast! Says my former New America colleague Lisa Guernsey, who proffers up a list of 6 "hot spots" for federal action on early childhood this year. Some of these are areas where early childhood supporters will be on the defense (ie, maintaining early childhood program funding), but there are also opportunities for progress in areas where early childhood concerns are integrated with broader K-12 policy debates (ie, teacher effectiveness), or where the administration has the authority or responsibility to act on its own (ie, Head Start re-compete). Check out the full list.

I'm particularly interested in two issues Lisa raises: The early childhood implications of broader conversations about reforming the tax code (which ought not be separated from this debate about tax credits for home schoolers), as well as Head Start re-compete. Head Start re-compete seems like the sort of thing that incoming conservatives out to support, since they've been critical of Head Start quality and the re-compete should enhance accountability and competition in the Head Start program--principles conservatives generally like in education. But I'm curious where the new Congressional conservatives will come down when (and if) the Obama administration actually starts pulling Head Start contracts from underperforming providers. Will they stand by their values and support Head Start recompetition? Or will they cynically seize on any potential opportunities to criticize the administration here (Is "get your Washington hands off my local Head Start provider" going to be a new "I don't want government messing with my Medicare?")? Or will conservatives members' responses here be swayed by the parochial interests of their local Head Start grantees--some of whom are quite politically powerful? Stay tuned to see. And you thought early childhood was going to be boring this year!?!

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