EdWeek: Oregon Earns a B on Early Years, C+ for Overall Education Quality

EdWeek: Oregon Earns a B on Early Years, C+ for Overall Education Quality

Education Week’s latest report on education quality gives Oregon a C+ and a ranking of 32nd in the country. When broken down into three stages of a student’s life, (early foundations, school years, and adult outcomes) the analysis finds that Oregon does slightly better on indicators of school readiness.

The Quality Counts 2020 report card uses federal data to compare states across 13 indicators it refers to collectively as a “Chance-for-Success Index.” Taken together, they are meant to offer a more holistic view of educational opportunity. In addition to metrics like elementary reading scores and high school graduation rates, the analysis is informed by a number of non-academic early indicators that predict school readiness. These include the percentage of children in families earning at least 200 percent of the federal poverty level, parents’ educational attainment level, and the percentage of parents who are fluent English speakers.

Most states, including Oregon, fared best on the early foundations category, but struggled in later years. Education Week also notes the lack of improvement overall among states. Oregon’s worst performing early indicator was preschool access—with just 46 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool, slightly below the national average.


What’s the difference between Oregon and top performing states?

  • In Massachusetts, the top-ranking state on the report card, 60 percent of 3- and 4- year-olds are enrolled in preschool, 14 percentage points higher than Oregon. And 64 percent of children in that state have at least one parent with a post-secondary degree vs. 52.5 percent in Oregon.
  • All states with an overall score of B+ or higher on the index reported top-tier parent incomes. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota, and New Hampshire all reported that more than 70 percent of dependent children lived in households earning at least 200 percent of the federal poverty level vs. 63.1 percent in Oregon.

Education Week’s full report is here. It also plans to issue a second installment in June on school finance and a K–12 achievement index in September.


Report: The State of Child Care in Oregon

Report: The State of Child Care in Oregon

The Oregon Early Learning Division has released its first of three reports on the state of publicly funded child care. The reports are mandated by passage of HB 2346 last March. The State of Early Care & Education and Child Care Assistance in Oregon offers a comprehensive review of state programs and how they currently work to serve children and families.

In painstaking statistical detail, the report reinforces what many families are living every day—the availability of high-quality, regulated child care slots in Oregon has dropped to crisis levels while the costs continue to increase. The lack of available, high-quality care is especially hard on low-income families, those living in rural or non-metro areas and those headed by single parent households. Children of color are disproportionately represented among households earning incomes below the federal poverty line ($42,660 per year for a family of three).

Some highlights of the report:

  • Nearly two-thirds of children under 5 have either both parents or a single parent employed.
  • 72 percent of the $1.3 billion spent on early care and education is directly financed by parents.
  • For children birth to 2, the entire state is a child care desert—defined as a place where there are more than three children for every available child care slot. Things improve only slightly as children age. For all children under 5, 27 of 39 counties in Oregon are considered a child care desert.
  • Only 15 percent of children eligible for subsidized child care are currently being served through state and federal subsidy programs. The median price of full-time child care for an infant is $14,532, substantially more than the cost of public college tuition in Oregon.
  • More than 24,000 people worked as early care and education providers in 2018, with the vast majority employed by center-based and large home care settings (77 percent). The median wage earned for center based care workers was $12–17.05 per hour. Home based providers typically earn less.

What’s Next?

The ELD and Oregon State University’s Child Care Research Partnership are working on a demographic and geographic analysis of supply and demand, and an additional report on barriers to accessing child care subsidies. Both reports are due by June 2020 to the Legislative Task force on Access to Quality Affordable Child Care, a group tasked to review and make recommendations for changes.

Read More

What If We Expanded Child Care Subsidies?

Oregon’s Child Care Crisis





Multnomah County Commissioner Discusses Preschool For All

Multnomah County Commissioner Discusses Preschool For All

Oregon is the fourth least affordable state when it comes to preschool. State and federal funding provide preschool for only those families in deepest poverty, reaching only 15 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Multnomah County.





The Foster Care Fix: Invest in the Services Proven to Keep Kids in Their Homes

The Foster Care Fix: Invest in the Services Proven to Keep Kids in Their Homes

Guest Column by Leslie Brown, Program Director, Children’s Relief Nursery at LifeWorks NW

Oregon’s Child Welfare System needs help. Our system for reporting abuse and neglect can be confusing, we do not have enough foster families or child welfare workers, and there are currently 84 foster children who’ve been sent out of state for care. These issues hit young children hard: according to the Oregon DHS 2017 Child Welfare Data Book, 45 percent of children in the Child Welfare System are under 6. While additional funding to improve this system is important, it is even more critical that we invest in programs that help keep young children out of foster care.

Fortunately, we know what it takes to keep kids in their homes. Relief Nurseries offer tailored, trauma-informed services to support families with children ages birth to 5. As a clinician working in the field of early childhood for 40 years and Program Director for the LifeWorks NW Children’s Relief Nursery, I have seen firsthand the impact Relief Nurseries can have on a family. We provide wrap-around services to families that reduce parental stress and social isolation. We teach parenting skills, strengthen bonds between parents and their children, and provide targeted services that reduce child behavioral problems and improve social-emotional development in very young children. These services include therapeutic classrooms for children, respite care that enables parents to take care of personal or family matters, regular home visiting to help families achieve family goals and build healthier parent-child relationships, and access to family counseling and consultation with an early childhood mental health therapist. Research shows that these types of primary prevention activities build the protective capacity of parents, keeping kids out of foster care.

According to the most recent evaluation conducted by Portland State University, the families Relief Nurseries serve have an average of 16 risk factors associated with abuse and neglect. This same evaluation shows that 98.5 percent of children working with Relief Nurseries between 2008 and 2010 avoided foster care placement. Children already in foster care who work with Relief Nurseries exit the system twice as quickly as those who don’t. Relief Nurseries provide additional benefits to parents and children, including increasing the percentage of parents reading to children, decreasing emergency room visits, and improving family economic stability.

LifeWorks NW is one of 31 Relief Nurseries and satellite sites operating in 17 counties in Oregon. According to a Children’s Institute interview with Cara Copeland, Executive Director of the Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries (OARN), these sites serve roughly 3,000 children in 2,600 families. But there are many more families across the state who could benefit from these services: based on the number of cases of reported abuse and neglect among children ages 0–5, OARN estimates that there are more than 36,000 young children across the state whose families need these programs.

Oregon has an opportunity in 2019 to keep children out of foster care by investing in Relief Nurseries. Governor Kate Brown, supported by a coalition of early childhood advocates, has called for a $5.6 million investment from the state to open two new Relief Nurseries and seven satellite sites, as well as expand the capacity of current programs. This is a smart investment for the state not only because Relief Nurseries have been proven to keep kids out of foster care, but also because for every $1 that the state invests in these programs, Relief Nurseries raise an additional $1.80 in private revenue.

I hope Oregon’s lawmakers will support this common-sense approach to fixing our state’s over-burdened foster care system. We should improve our Child Welfare System so that we no longer need to send foster children out of state for care. The best way we can do that is to provide families with the support they need so that children can remain in their homes receiving the love and care they need.

Oregon’s Infant-Toddler Care Dilemma: Providing Quality Care at an Affordable Cost

Oregon’s Infant-Toddler Care Dilemma: Providing Quality Care at an Affordable Cost

Imagine you’re an Oregonian earning a median-level household income of $78,683 a year. Let’s also imagine you’ve just become a new parent and are researching infant-toddler care options in advance of your planned return to work.

Do you choose a child care option that costs 11 percent of your total household income? Twenty percent? Thirty-nine percent?

What if those cost differences also reflected the relative quality of those care options? How much are you willing to pay for high-quality care? 

Cost vs. Quality Amid a Scarcity of Choice

For many Oregonians, this hypothetical calculus is all too real. A new analysis by the Center for American Progress (CAP) highlights the uncomfortable reality parents face when seeking infant-toddler child care. CAP analyzed data from all 50 states to come up with average costs for care, distinguishing between child care options that meet minimal standards for care and those that offer “high-quality” care.

High-quality care includes settings where caregivers have received more advanced training in child development and where staff ratios surpass minimum legal requirements.

For your hypothetical family, home-based child care meeting the most minimal of licensing standards will cost approximately $8,655 per year, or 11 percent of an Oregonian’s median household income.  Center-based child care serving infants will cost you $15,736 per year, or 20 percent of the median household income. And high-quality, center-based child care will cost you a jaw-dropping, $30,686 per year, or about 39 percent of the median household income.

Even for those earning more than Oregon’s median income, an $8,655 per year child care bill is no bargain. But for those who can afford to pay it, securing a child care spot for an infant or toddler, comes with another layer of challenge: lack of availability.

CAP analysis shows that In Multnomah County, there are five children for every available infant-toddler child care slot. In Harney county, there are 31 children for every available slot. In Lake County, there are 62 children for every available slot.

Infant-Toddler Care Offers Little Financial Incentive to Providers

Much of the scarcity is due to the fact that there just aren’t a lot of financial incentives to care for infants and toddlers. A certified, center-based child care provider must staff infant rooms at a 1:4 staff to child ratio; 24–35-month-olds at a 1:5 ratio; and 36-month to kindergarten-age children at a 1:10 ratio. But centers know that charging the parents of infants more than twice as much as the parents of a 3-year-old is not practical, so they effectively subsidize the cost of younger children with the rates charged to older kids.

Registered home-based providers in Oregon generally care for fewer children across a broader age range. Their licensing requirements call for a 1:10 staff to child ratio. However, only two out of 10 children can be under 24 months old, which also limits availability to parents seeking care for children under 2.

Another quirk in the child care picture is that efforts to offer public preschool opportunities to more children in Oregon could exacerbate the problem of cost and scarcity in infant-toddler child care. As child care providers often subsidize the higher cost of infant-toddler care with the relative lower cost of care for 3- and 4-year-olds, broader access to public preschool in Oregon could actually put more pressure on the operational cost of providing child care as preschool-aged kids would likely leave for (free) public options.


DIY Child Care

CAP has created an interactive tool which allows users to modify various elements of child care to better understand the cost of providing quality care in Oregon and other states. Click the image to try it yourself. 

Source: Center for American Progress.


Low-Income Families Struggle to Cover Affordability Gap

Given that 19 percent of Oregon’s children ages 0–5 live at or below the poverty line, how do parents earning low-income wages work if they need child care?

Oregon offers child care subsidies funded primarily by a federal block grant to low-income working families. However, the CAP analysis also demonstrates that in Oregon, there is an $83 per month difference between the cost of center-based care for an infant and what the state offers in child care subsidy assistance.

Governor Kate Brown’s latest budget proposal calls for a $10 million investment in Baby Promise, a program that seeks to increase access to child care in a variety of settings. Recognizing the need for a significant public investment in child care is a step toward creating an early care and support system for children and families that works.


Early Education in Oregon by the Numbers

Early Education in Oregon by the Numbers

The Status of Oregon Children & Families: 2017 County Data Book recently released by Children First for Oregon compiles data on how kids across the state are faring in health, education, and economic security. Here we highlight some key findings underscoring issues of access to high-quality early education for children in low-income or rural households and provide information and resources about early education programs currently serving Oregon’s children.
Oregon is Falling Behind                              

  • 28 states and the District of Columbia outpaced Oregon in enrolling young children in school in 2013-2014.
  • When Oregon’s 3- and 4-year-olds turn 5, they will have already spent less time in the classroom than the average young child in the U.S.
  • Fewer than half of Oregon’s young children have attended early education programs over the last decade.
  • 41 percent of Oregon’s young children who qualify for state preschool programs are not served.

Where You Live Matters

  • Over 21,000 3- and 4-year-olds living in poverty in Oregon lack access to state-funded early education programs.
  • In its first year, Preschool Promise served children in only 17 out of 36 counties in Oregon.
  • Rural children are acutely affected by a lack of access to high-quality early education.

Programs Currently Operating in Oregon

  • Head Start and Oregon Prekindergarten: This is free preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds living at or below 100% of the federal poverty threshold. Students also receive nutritious meals, medical screenings, and home visits. Demand for the program currently exceeds the number of available spaces.
  • Preschool Promise: This program, overseen by Early Learning Hubs around Oregon provides high-quality education to children living at or below 200% of the federal poverty threshold, and currently serves 1300 children. More information on the program is available in our Preschool Promise Brief.
  • Reach Out and Read: In coordination with pediatricians and nurse practitioners, this program serves over 76,000 children across Oregon each year and distributes more than 140,000 books.
  • SMART (Start Making a Reader Today): This program pairs almost 10,000 students in Oregon with a network of 5,000 reading volunteers who read one-on-one with children in grades preK-third, for one hour each week.


As we have previously discussed in this blog, improved access to early learning is a strategy for achieving equity. Our current early education programs, though, are leaving too many low-income children behind.

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