New statistics regarding national early education have just been released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection based on its 2011-12 survey.
- Only 60% of U.S. school districts offer preschool.
- 57% of those that offer preschool offer only part-day preschool.
- 55% of those that offer preschool offer it universally; in addition, some districts target children with disabilities (39%), those from low-income families (25%) or in Title I programs (13%), or at-risk children (16%).
- Native-Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Native-Alaskan kindergartners are held back at twice the rate of white kindergarten students.
- Black children make up 18% of preschool enrollment but 48% of preschool children suspended more than once (as compared to 26% of white children and 20% of Hispanic/Latino children).
- Boys make up 54% of the preschool population and 79% of those suspended at least once.
- 68% of the state’s districts offer preschool: 50% offer only part-day preschool, 7% offer only fulltime preschool; 44% offer both.
- Of the 31,472 children enrolled in preschool, 31% have disabilities (qualify for IDEA support) and 7% are English language (Limited English Proficiency) learners.
- Overall, 3% of kindergarten students are held back, including 8% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander children, 5% of African American children, 5% of Hispanic/Latino children, and 2% of white children.
Today, the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children is a twelve year old organization, a leader in early education and care advocacy and policy reform, a resource to the business community on the importance of early education and care, and a respected authority in the state on issues affecting early childhood education for low-income communities. How did we get here?
The Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children, then known as The Bessie Tartt Wilson Children’s Foundation, came out of a simple idea – how do we address the challenges low-income families have in providing their children with the best possible start?
Founder and Former President Mary Reed has a firsthand knowledge of the issues that have existed for these families since 1983. Her mother, Bessie Tartt Wilson, was the first woman of color to own a family child care service in Boston, and Mary spent her childhood working for the family business. When she took over Tartts Daycare, she interacted with families and intimately learned their struggles.
Parents told Mary that state provided vouchers for subsidized child care were difficult to come by, easy to lose, and ran out far too quickly. It made it difficult to retain jobs and attend school, making the road out of poverty that much more difficult to navigate. After decades of seeing this happen, Mary decided that someone needed to speak for these families and children and make a real change.
In 2002, Mary created the then-called Bessie Tartt Wilson Children’s Foundation. A board of trustees was created, consisting of Phyllis Cater, Maureen Alphonse-Charles, Denise Coll, Donna Latson-Gittens, Adelisa L. Gonzalez, Gail Kirk, Mary Lassen, Monica Valdes-Lupi, Tyra Sidberry, and Dr. Rosa Smith, many of whom are still involved with the organization today. It was decided that the Bessie Tartt Wilson Children’s Foundation would focus on the unique issues that affect low-income families, starting with the state’s voucher system.
Above, Founder Mary Reed in the back room of Tartts Day Care, a.k.a. BTWIC’s first office!
Beginning the Work
The Bessie Tartt Wilson Children’s Foundation was initially run out of a small storage room in the Tartts Daycare center in Boston. Staffed with consultants and outside research capacity from Wellesley University’s Center for Research on Women and funded by Barr Foundation, The Boston Foundation, and Fidelity, among others, a year-long study of the voucher system began. More than 3,295 vouchers were tracked, and the findings led to Keeping the Promise: A Study of the Massachusetts Child Care Voucher System, a report authored by Valora Washington of the CAYL Institute, Nancy Marshall and Christine Robinson of Wellesley College’s Center for Research on Women, Kathy Modigliani of the Family Child Care Project, and Marta Rosa of Wheelock College.
What followed the release of Keeping the Promise is a long trail of positive change in the state for low-income families and children, as well as great growth for the organization. Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts that continue telling our story.