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Free, universal preschool exists in DC—so why not the rest of the country?

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It sounds too good to be true: Free, universal preschool for 3 and 4-year-old kids. For working parents, and those who wish they could go back to work (or even just go to the grocery store alone) the idea seems like a beautiful, if unrealistic, dream.

Except that some places—including America's capital city—have figured out how to make universal preschool a reality. In Washington, D.C., 90% of 4-year-olds and 70% of 3-year-olds attend a full-day preschool program for free, according to the Center for American Progress.

Preschool for everyone. For free.

Those two years of no-cost, high-quality preschool have a huge impact on families.

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First, the preschoolers are reaping the benefits of preschool. High-quality, center-based care has a ton of benefits, but surprisingly, they're not academic. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found children who attended high-quality center-based care for at least one year had lower rates of emotional, conduct, relationship and attention problems later in life than kids who were watched by a family member or babysitter. These benefits last longer than any temporary boost the kids get in academics.

The second benefit is economic. The incredibly expensive cost of childcare is a huge barrier to paid work for many parents who simply wouldn't be able to afford day care. When D.C. tore down this barrier, the city's maternal work force participation rate increased by more than 10%.

Universal preschool for 3 and 4 year olds has been proven to be doable and beneficial for families and the wider community.

So why isn't America moving toward universal preschool?

Well, for one thing, money.

The ways in which states and school districts fund preschool programs vary across America.

Funding for preschool programs can come from the federal, state and local governments, and even the private sector, but the ratios depend on the state you're in.

Basically, universal preschool programs have to be championed at the state level, and different states have wildly different ideas about how important preschool is, who should have access and how to fund it.

Some states fund preschool programs with gambling revenue. Others have funneled money from tobacco settlements into educating 4-year-olds. Utah famously made a bet with Goldman Sachs to fund preschool for kids from low-income homes.

The U.S. Constitution puts the responsibility of education on the states, but state constitutions vary. Some explicitly protect the rights of preschoolers to public education, while others (looking at you, Idaho) are arguably more open to interpretation on this issue.

D.C and several other states include preschool or "voluntary prekindergarten" funding in their education funding formula, a model that research suggests is the best, most stable was to fund these programs. In the 2016-17 school year, D.C. spent $16,996 in state funding per child, as overseen by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. The national average? Just $5,008.

But where do those thousands of dollars come from? Federal funding typically makes up a very small piece of the pie for K-12 funding, usually under 10%. The next biggest chunk of funding is from the state but and local governments make up the bulk of funding for K-12 education in America. So if universal preschool is part of a K-12 funding model, taxpayers are paying for it.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, 18 states got federal Preschool Development Grants in 2017, while seven states didn't invest any state money in preschool at all.

As Steve Barnett of the National Institute for Early Education Research told NPR, "The growing inequality between states that have moved ahead and invested in quality preschool programs and states that have done nothing is really stark."

In the Dakotas, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and New Hampshire, state dollars don't go to preschool programs (Montana just recently got its pilot program up and running).

But in Florida, voluntary prekindergarten has been free for all 4 year old children for years, and Georgia also boasts a long-standing free-to-all prekindergarten program. It's the same story in Oklahoma, where 74% of four-year-olds attend school.

Vermont, California and Wisconsin also offer Pre-K programs, and West Virginia, Alabama, New York, Michigan and Rhode Island have all increased pre-K enrollment rates in recent years. So too have Mississippi and New Jersey.

But pre-K isn't always universal preschool

What sets such state programs apart from D.C.'s universal preschool programs is that in some states, not every child will qualify for enrollment, making the preschool not "universal." And, pre-K is often just for 4-year-olds. Eighty-six percent of kids in state-funded preschool programs are 4 years old, but there are plenty of 3 year olds who are ready for preschool.

There's another layer here too that makes D.C.'s system so enviable: In D.C., preschools must offer at least 6.5 hours of care per day, but in many states pre-K is just a half-day program. In some states pre-kindergarteners might be in school for only a few hours a week. There are few jobs parents can work within that small window of time.

Still, economists estimate the potential benefits of such pre-K programs are several times greater than the costs, not because parents are getting back to work, but because of lower societal costs (like lower spending on the criminal justice system and social support programs) and greater future earning potential for pre-K graduates.

If the economic returns of one year of half day pre-K is good, then imagine what a full day of care for two years could do if expanded nationwide.

Universal preschool in other nations

It's not surprising that many other countries have already figured out what D.C. did and implemented it on a wider scale.

Since 2000 all British 4-year-olds have access to part-time preschool, and the plan was extended to 3-year-old children in 2005. No surprise, maternal workforce participation rates went up there, too.

In Norway, almost all preschoolers go to free preschool and the practice is regarded as a citizen's right after 30 years of steadily increasing enrollment.

France has it. Finland has it. Spain has it. Mexico has it. China is aiming for it, with a goal of getting 85% of 3 to 6 year old kids into preschool by 2020.

Closer to home, the Canadian province of Québec has something that's not quite universal preschool (the demand is too high to get all the kids into the high-quality center-based care), but rather a steeply subsidized childcare program that saw women's workforce participation go from 74% to about 87% over a couple decades, CBC reports.

The rest of Canada is still waiting for relief from sky-high day care costs and so, of course, is America. But the blueprint for it is right there in the capital city of the United States.

Universal preschool has made D.C. a better place for families, and it's time to make it truly universal for all Americans.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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Last month Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom announced some big news: The engaged pair are expecting a baby!

Perry announced her pregnancy when the music video for her single, "Never Worn White" showed her rocking a bump and this weekend she announced she's expecting a girl...by posting a photo of Bloom's face covered in pink frosting.

She geotagged the photo "Girls Run the World" and captioned it "💕 It's a girl 💕."

Clearly, this man is thrilled about becoming a #girldad.

Perry is due in the summer, as she previously noted on Instagram.

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"Let's just say it's gonna be a jam packed summer..." she captioned her original pregnancy announcement.

"OMG, so glad I don't have to suck it in anymore," Perry tweeted after the big news went public.

"I am excited. We're excited and happy and it's probably the longest secret I've ever had to keep," Perry explained in a live stream with fans.

Of course not long after Perry announced her pregnancy the world changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Because of the pandemic, Perry and Bloom have postponed their wedding, according to People and are pretty much just laying low at home trying to enjoy Perry's pregnancy as much as possible during this difficult time.

Perry recently told Stellar Magazine that the wedding is about more than throwing a big bash, so while it would be totally normal to be disappointed by having to postpone it, the mom-to-be seems to be in a good place regarding her nuptials.

She told Stellar: "It's not about the party. It's about the coming together of people who will hold us accountable when things get really hard. Those are just the facts when you're with someone who challenges you to be your best self."

The little girl Bloom and Perry are expecting will have a lot of people to love on her. While this is the first child for Perry, Bloom is already a dad to a 9-year-old boy who will soon be a big brother.

Congratulations to Perry + Bloom!

News

Pink opened up about her family's fight against coronavirus late Friday, taking to Instagram to make a big announcement.

"Two weeks ago my three-year old son, Jameson, and I are were showing symptoms of COVID-19," Pink revealed, noting that she tested positive and has since recovered.

She continued: "My family was already sheltering at home and we continued to do so for the last two weeks following the instruction of our doctor. Just a few days ago we were re-tested and are now thankfully negative. It is an absolute travesty and failure of our government to not make testing more widely accessible. This illness is serious and real."

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After dealing with the virus on a personal level and recognizing her privilege in being able to access testing, Pink decided to donate $1 million to fight coronavirus and hopefully protect others.

"In an effort to support the healthcare professionals who are battling on the frontlines every day, I am donating $500,000 to the Temple University Hospital Emergency Fund in Philadelphia in honor of my mother, Judy Moore, who worked there for 18 years in the Cardiomyopathy and Heart Transplant Center. Additionally, I am donating $500,000 to the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund," she announced via Instagram.

Pink ended her update by thanking the brave healthcare workers on the front lines and reminding the rest of us to stay home.

For more information on COVID-19 and how it is impacting families, visit mother.ly/coronavirus.

News

On Friday President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control is now advising people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public. It's not a rule, he says, but a recommendation.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," President Trump told reporters. "I'm not choosing to do it."

First Lady Melania Trump is urging others to do it, tweeting, "As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone—we can stop this together."

What the CDC says about cloth face masks:

The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because recent studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.

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Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets

"So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.

CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.

"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.

A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection:

The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.

According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.

"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, tells NBC News.

According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.

For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.

No-sew methods:

If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.

How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be

Should kids wear masks? Talk to your doctor.

The CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.

But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).

If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances. Babies' faces should not be covered.

If you have no one to watch your children while you get groceries and cannot get them delivered try contacting your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who can fetch groceries for you so that you don't have to take your children to the store with you.

News

Starting this weekend Target and Walmart will be limiting the number of people allowed in its stores to give shoppers and staff more space to spread out and adhere to social distancing recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Beginning April 4, Target will actively monitor and, when needed, limit the total number of people inside based on the store's specific square footage," Target notes in a news release.

Walmart's corporate message is similar: "Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store's capacity."

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At Target you will also notice staff wearing gloves and masks over the next two weeks as the company steps up its coronavirus protection measures.

Many people are choosing to stay home and order groceries online, but that's not an option for everyone as long lines at some Target's prove.

"We're incredibly proud of the commitment our more than 350,000 frontline team members have demonstrated to ensure millions of guests can count on Target, and we'll continue to focus our efforts on supporting them," says Target's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, John Mulligan.

Target is open this weekend but—along with Costco, Aldi, Publix and Trader Joe's—Target stores will be closed on Easter Sunday to give the essential employees in these stores a much-deserved break.

News
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