Studies show that educational achievement gaps already exist at Kindergarten entry.  Children from low-income families are more likely to start school with limited language skills, health problems and social and emotional problems that interfere with learning.  The larger the gap at school entry, the harder it is to close.

Language proficiency is a key predictor of school success. Early literacy skills (size of vocabulary, recognizing letters, understanding letter and sound relationships) at kindergarten entry are good predictors of children's reading abilities throughout their educational careers. Language and literacy skills enable children to develop cognitive skills and knowledge and to interact effectively with peers and adults.



Highlights of the State

Early Education Matters- The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) and partners Milwaukee Public Schools, the Wisconsin Child Care Research Partnership at UW-Extension and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) received a grant from the Joyce Foundation for a two year project to expand the quality and quantity of early education experiences available to Wisconsin's 4-year olds.  Other partners involved in the project include representatives from Head Start, Wisconsin Child Care Resource and Referral Network and the Department of Public Instruction.

Approximately 10 comunities will be selected to receive small grants for planning efforts around community approaches to four-year-old kindergarten.  Grants will only be available in districts that do not have universal four-year-old kindergarten (Communities that have early childhood special education or are in the start-up process will be eligible).  Planning must involve public school representatves as well as representatives from local early care and education (child care providers, Head Start, private pre-schools, etc.).  In addition to the grants, communities can take part in research, training and technical assistance opportunities.

Kids First-  In early May, the Governor presented "KidsFirst: The Governor's Plan to Invest in Wisconsin's Future".  Developed with the first lady, the superintendent of DPI, and secretaries of DHFS, DWD, and DOC, highlights of the four-part plan include the promotion of:

Kids that are Ready for Success by

  • Rating the quality of child care providers to aid parental choice and providing financial incentives for quality programs
  • Promoting quality child care by additional funding for the TEACH and REWARD programs
  • Fully funding 4-year-old kindergarten plus incentives to communities that integrate early education services

Safe Kids at home, in school and in their communities by

  • For foster care, increasing benefit rates and providing subsidies for certain relative guardians, promoting early attention to health care needs and providing those leaving foster care after high school with health care coverage and job training
  • In the child welfare system, providing added resources to counties with higher turnover rates and training needs, designating an ombudsman for Milwaukee County, establishing a statewide, proactive review system, developing a workforce from within targeted communities and targeting grants toward integrated community-based services
  • Providing added resources to reduce child and family violence and services to help children who witness domestic abuse
  • Promoting a safe-routes-to-school initiative for Milwaukee
  • Raising Wisconsin's child passenger safety standards

Kids with the opportunity to be raised in Strong Families by

  • Initiating a home visiting program for all new parents with information about nutrition, parenting and available services
  • Developing local, colaborative projects focusing on W-2, child welfare and substance abuse and mental health systems
  • Expanding the Children First program and otherwise improving child support enforcement efforts
  • Helping children of incarcerated parents by an enhanced community transition program, increased parent education while in prison, priority placement to parents in the Female Altenative to Prison program, assistance to relatives caring for children, and expanded mentoring and school-based support programs for children

Healthy Kids by

  • Providing grants to agencies and groups to identify and enroll low-income families in Medicaid
  • Providing Medicaid coverage of sealants and flouride treatments, certifying dental hygienists as Medicaid providers, and appointing a task force to address the lack of available dental care for Wisconsin's low-income children
  • Targeting immunization efforts to areas where numbers of children immunized is low
  • Providing grants to schools to help cover start-up costs for school breakfast programs and increase per meal subsidies
  • Increasing food stamp outreach and expanding access via the internet and to Spanish-Hmong-and Russian-speaking families
  • Continuing support of the Family Planning Waiver which provides pregnancy prevention and reproductive health services to adolescents
  • Promoting a "healthy start" for kids by providing BadgerCare coverage of prenatal care for undocumented immigrants, providing W-2 benefits to eligible, first time, at-risk pregnant women in their third trimester, and extending the W-2 work exemption for parents of infants from three to six months
  • Expanding initiatives to prevent lead poisoning, fight asthma and reduce tobacco use by youth and pregnant women

These are highlights of the program.  The complete document is available for viewing by clicking here.

Governor's Task Force on Education Excellence- The task force was charged with studying and making recommendtions regarding the cost of providing a great education to every child in Wisconsin and determine the level at which Wisconsin citizens are prepared to fund that education; and

  • Reviewing how the state funds education through a combination of state and local taxes and make recommendations regarding what proportion of these two taxes is fair and reasonable to fund public education; and
  • Improve the state's ability to attract, recruit, train and retain high quality teachers so that every child and every classroom has a highly qualified teacher, including ways to increase compensation to attract our best young students to the profession, keep our experienced teachers in the profession and align our best teachers with the toughest challenges; and
  • Consider and recommend ways to adequately fund special education; and
  • Review existing barriers to academic achievement in Wisconsin; and
  • Study Wisconsin's current investments in early childhood education and recommend ways to make other early investments in education to increase student achievement and accomplish other positive long-term results.

See WCCF's reaction to the Task Force's Report, by clicking here.

Policy Issues
1. Maintain and, if possible, expand BadgerCare, Wisconsin's health insurance program for low income working families that uses federal SCHIP appropriations as allowed by waiver.

2. Maintain and, if possible, expand access to Wisconsin Shares, Wisconsin's child care subsidy program for low income working families.

3. Achieve universal access to four-year old kindergarten through collaboration among K-12 school districts and local child care/Head Start programs.

4. Provide the full-range of mandated EPSDT services to all eligible children.

Statutory Children's Cabinet
Wisconsin has no statutory children's group.

Wisconsin School Readiness Report
Access Wisconsin School Readiness Initiative: The Status of School Readiness Indicators in Wisconsin by clicking on the following link:

Access Ready Kids, Ready Schools, Ready Communities; Measuring School Readiness in Wisconsin by clicking on the following link:





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The School Readiness Indicators Initiative is supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
The 17-state initiative is managed by Rhode Island KIDS COUNT