Proof that Public-Private Preschool Partnerships Work—What comes next?
The Governor and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation released the results of a study focused on two years of the mixed-delivery preschool pilots in Virginia. This study compared outcomes for children in private preschool settings receiving public funds (known as “mixed delivery”) and public school classrooms. The evaluation proved that there was relatively the same language and learning outcomes for preschool kids in mixed-delivery settings as for those in public schools. This finding shocked no one who had ever seen children learning in a high-quality child care setting. However, the report offers proof that we should continue to expand our public-private partnerships. It also provides some evidence for policy considerations.
- Children in classrooms with teachers who did not have BA degrees performed just as well as children in settings with teachers with degrees in all areas, except for math. Needed policy change: Clarify state policies or seek waivers to allow Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) funds to be used in settings where teachers are not certified.
- Early childhood educators in private settings are more likely to employ women of color. Educators in private settings are paid significantly less than those in public settings. Needed policy change: Create policies that promote pay equity in the private sector, such as increased reimbursement rates, tax credits for educators or establish minimum wages for a position.
- Communities promoting public-private partnerships will need a variety of technical assistance from the state to support collaboration. Needed policy change: Invest in structures that support collaboration — from peer learning communities, to professional development opportunities, to guidance around best practices. This could look like investing in additional state administration/oversight or centers of excellence.
- To expand public-private partnerships we need to develop policies that will limit restrictions on collaboration and can promote alignment of funding and structures. Needed policy change: As the state examines new governance structures for early childhood consider which local entities are most appropriate to support collaboration between the public and private sector. This includes school system stakeholders, local government officials, Smart Beginnings leaders, United Way or other community organizations, providers, and parents.
It is important to note that there is much more to consider about Virginia’s picture of mixed-delivery than this evaluation or the subset of mixed-delivery pilots. For many years Head Start programs have offered publicly funded preschool through private, community based providers. In addition, many private programs have received contracts or grants from school divisions to offer Head Start or VPI over time. Some local divisions have been creatively thinking about how to best support public-private partnerships by building more support around private settings serving large populations of children on subsidy or byusing local funds to supplement additional subsidy opportunities.
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