Jane Miller-Cleworth: A Vibrant Life with Children

Jane Miller-Cleworth: A Vibrant Life with Children

JaneMillerCAfter a long and enjoyable 32 years with WECA, Jane Miller-Cleworth will be retiring in September at the bright age of 88.

“I have had the privilege of knowing Jane for the past 15 years,” said Ruth Schmidt, WECA Executive Director.  “Jane has always brought the best balance of consummate professional, committed colleague and absolutely lovely person to her work .  WECA greatly appreciates Jane’s years of service to family child care providers and the children they serve.  We extend our heartfelt thanks to Jane and wish her all the best in retirement.”

Jane’s child care story began in 1973, when she and her partner Betty Cleworth saw the need for a preschool in their home town of Wisconsin Rapids. Jane attended child care classes at Mid-State Technical College and opened a childcare program in their church basement. “The center was mostly a nursery school with extended hours for childcare.” Jane explained.  It was licensed for 25 years and was moved into a home when the church rectory had to be torn down.  That group center, named B & J Learning Center, operated for more than 12 years. They sold their group center in 1991, and it still operates today-serving more than 150 children.

In addition to her group center, she and Betty started the Wood County Child Care Council, a support group for child care workers that is still operating today.

In 1987, Jane started her work at WECA. When asked why she decided to work for WECA, her answer was simple. “As far as I was concerned WECA was it!” she shared.  “I was already in Child Care but in a different capacity.  I enjoy working with people, and I felt my experiences could help others.” As a Food Program area coordinator, Jane served many Wisconsin counties, including Adams, Waushara, Portage and Wood. Her work helped hundreds of family child care providers maintain a healthy and nutritional meal program for kids in their care.

What makes Jane’s history amazing is she accomplished all of this even though at one point she was a single mother of nine children, six of them boys! Now, her children have spread their wings far and wide!  “Three settled in Wisconsin and one in Alabama, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, and Minnesota respectively, with one as far away as Saipan,” she shared.  “They work in healthcare, fitness, architecture, engineering, construction, teaching and state government.”

We will greatly miss Jane as she embarks on her new adventures in retirement. “I’m not sure what exactly I plan to do but it definitely will involve volunteer work,” she said. Something tells us she has plenty of places to visit as well.

Early Education Expert featured on NPR

Dr. James Heckman, a Noble prize winning economist at University of Chicago, recently joined Michel Martin of NPR to discuss the importance of early childhood education (Click on the NPR logo to the left to listen to the interview). Dr. Heckman has spent years studying the impact that high-quality child care has on the economy. He found that early education is an extremely wise use of public dollars as there is a significant return on the investment. He has since been an incredible advocate for early childhood education and its large positive impact on society and the economy.

Governor Doyle Responds to a Growing Budget Deficit

Yesterday, Governor Doyle addressed the state in response to the continuing economic downturn in Wisconsin. Some estimates have found that the state budget deficit could be more than $1 billion larger than the $5.7 billion shortfall estimated in February. In order to fill the hole, the Governor proposed several cost-cutting measures to prepare for an additional $1.5 billion shortage including: furloughs for state employees, spending cuts of at least 5%, and personnel reductions. The Governor has not proposed any increases in taxes. Next week, when the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has calculated a more accurate estimate of the additional deficit, the Governor will propose changes to his original budget.

To read more about funding proposals for early education in the Governor’s original budget, click here. Keep visiting our blog to find out the latest on any new early education program cuts that may result from the growing deficit.

Education Gaps: A Permanent Recession

In their report, “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools,” McKinsey & Company discussed how gaps in education are substantially hurting the United States economy. They stated that “the persistence of these educational achievement gaps imposes on the United States the economic equivalence of a permanent national recession.” The report describes 4 different achievement gaps that are contributing to the problem: between students of different ethnicities, between students from differing family incomes, between the US as a whole and other nations, and between schools in different regions of the US. You can read the full report here.

One of the most interesting findings in the article was the calculated boost to our economy if each of the 4 gaps had been closed for a period of time. Based on their analyses, McKinsey & Company reported that in 2008 the United States could have collected an additional $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion in gross domestic product if the gap between the US and other nations was closed from 1983 to 1998, an additional $310 billion to $525 billion if the gap between students of different ethnicities closed by 1998, an additional $400 billion to $670 billion if the gap between students from differing family incomes was closed from 1983 to 1998, and an additional $425 to $700 billion if the gap between schools in different regions of the US was closed ftom 1983 to 1998. In total, if all 4 achievement gaps were closed, our gross domestic product would have been between $2.435 trillion and $4.195 trillion higher in 2008 alone. It has been said that the US economy will fall $1.0 trillion short of its potential during the current recession- a number that is far less than the potential economic boost we lost due to the existence of educational achievement gaps.

Based on the findings of this report, it is important that we invest in quality educational programs-those that show measurable results- at all levels. Adequate investments in early education play an important role in closing achievement gaps. Studies have found that these gaps can form early in life, before Kindergarten begins, and that early experiences are linked to future outcomes, even into adulthood. As Dr. James Heckman once said, “Investing in quality early learning programs is the most efficient way to affect school and life success and to reduce social expenditures later.” We couldn’t agree more.

Who Else is Blogging About ECE?

This is an exciting time in the field of early education. Developments are happening at the national, state, and local levels across the United States! While searching the internet, we found several blogs that are devoted to various aspects of ece. Five of these are listed below:

1. The Tulsa Initiative Blog. This is the blog for the Tulsa Initiative Project, an Oklahoma initiative aimed at improving high-quality care for low-income children while also providing valuable resources to the families of those in Tulsa.

2. The Early Ed Watch Blog. This blog discusses all aspects of early education and focuses on policies that affect our youngest children.

3. The Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition blog. Find out what is going on in the Texas policy arena as it relates to early education.

4. Early Stories blog. This blog- written by the director of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University- discusses and comments on early education stories featured in the media.

5. Pre-K Now’s blog, Inside Pre-K, features entries from ece professionals. This blog takes a look inside early education classrooms.

Stimulus Dollars for Wisconsin’s Head Start and Early Head Start Programs

On April 2, 2009, the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services provided some guidance to states on the Head Start funding increases included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. You can read the full announcement here. It was estimated that programs in Wisconsin will receive a total of $4,464,745 for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) and $5,242,867 for quality improvement initiatives. According to the department, “COLA increases are to be used to pay for higher operating costs and to increase staff salaries and fringe benefits” whereas quality dollars can be used for things like offsetting professional development costs, improving physical environments of programs, and transportation. At least 50% of quality dollars must be used to improve the wages and benefits of employees so that high-quality professionals can be recruited and retained in the programs. The 54 Head Start programs across the state will be contacted and provided with their individual funding amounts in the near future. The department announced that guidance around the $1.1 billion in the stimulus package for Early Head Start expansion will come in a separate communication.

Orchard Ridge: In the Spotlight

Earlier this week, Madison’s Orchard Ridge Nursery School was featured in the Wisconsin State Journal’s “Spotlight on Schools.” The article discussed how children in one classroom participated in a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. After learning about houses and the importance of having a roof over one’s head, the children donated tools to be placed in gift boxes given to Habitat homeowners. Renee Zaman, the executive director at Orchard Ridge and former president of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association , discussed the importance of giving back to the Madison community. Over the past 14 years, the school has collected over $13,000 in tools donated to Habitat. You can read the full article here.

The Wisconsin State Journal will highlight a new story about education in southern Wisconsin every Monday. Do you have an idea for the next story? Contact Beth Williams at 608.252.6130 or email her at bwilliams@madison.com.