Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality

Cutting-edge policy ideas on how to improve early childhood education and close persistent educational achievement gaps in New Jersey were discussed at the Cradle To Kindergarten book signing and roundtable discussion on January 29, 2018.

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Held at The College of New Jersey, the event was moderated by Steve Adubato of the Caucus Educational Corporation. The featured speakers were the co-authors of Cradle To Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality, Ajay Chaudry and Taryn Morrissey. Opening remarks were given by Arturo Brito, Executive Director of The Nicholson Foundation, and the closing remarks were led by Cecilia Zalkind, CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey. Caucus Educational Corporation, The Nicholson Foundation, and Advocates for Children of New Jersey are partners of the Right From the Start NJ campaign.

The book, Cradle to Kindergarten, provided the thought-provoking ideas that formed the heart of the day’s discussions. Cradle to Kindergarten offers policy ideas for addressing the vastly different life experiences among U.S. children between the ages of birth to five. “This book,” said Brito, “is a virtual blueprint on how to reduce educational and economic inequality by expanding access to educational and financial resources at a critical stage in child development.” The book points out the inequalities present in very early childhood. Much of the gaps in educational achievement between different populations are already present at the time of school entry, and studies show that the gaps remain throughout a child’s school career and later life.

Currently, throughout the U.S., there is meager public investment in children before they reach school age, and the book advocates for more spending to correct educational disparities. Cradle to Kindergarten recommends paid parental leave; guaranteed childcare assistance; universal early education starting at age three; and, the transformation of Head Start to begin earlier and provide more services to our most vulnerable populations. These steps, the authors believe, would help curtail the consequences of inequality in early childhood in our country.

The event also featured a roundtable discussion on how the issues presented in Cradle to Kindergarten affect New Jersey. Featured panelists on the roundtable were Bonnie Eggenburg, President, New Jersey Head Start Association; Ellen Frede, Co-Director, National Institute for Early Education Research; Beverly Lynn, CEO, Programs for Parents, Newark, NJ; and, Karen White, Director, Work and Family Programs, Center for Women and Work, Rutgers University.

Ms. Zalkind concluded the event with closing remarks. “We hope this is the beginning of a movement. At this moment in time, we have the opportunity to advance this into a more comprehensive agenda,” she said. “This is not the end of the conversation, it’s the beginning.”

Right From The Start NJ aims to ensure that every child in New Jersey, from birth to age 3, has the opportunity for the early relationships, environments and experiences they need to support healthy growth and development. Follow us on Facebook at @RightStartNJ or on Twitter at @RightStartNJ.