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State Legislatures Approve New Plans to Strengthen Early Learning

This calendar year saw more than three dozen laws enacted in 25 states that in some way support early learning, according to a list of enacted legislation compiled by the Denver-based Education Commission of the States. Among the new initiatives are the creation of statewide prekindergarten programs in Hawaii and Mississippi; a new mandate that early elementary teachers in Ohio must pass a test in principles of scientifically-based reading instruction; and the expansion of home visiting programs in Arkansas.

Emily Workman, a policy analyst with ECS who researched the new laws, said the variety of legislative efforts shows that states are considering creative ways to boost early learning, even as a federal proposal to expand early childhood education seems bogged down in Congress.

"States are not sitting back to see what happens" with $75 billion proposal to expand early learning, Workman said. "These are all great moves; even if states don't have $30 million to spend, they're coming up with a host of really great ways to support early childhood."

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