State Early Learning Governance


Client: The BUILD Initiative


The national Education Funders' Collaborative commissioned the Build Initiative to help individual states to develop and refine their early learning system governance models based on best practices in other states.

The Connecticut Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, a group of 14 funders from Connecticut, joined in partnership with the State of Connecticut to achieve the goal of a coordinated system to serve children ages birth to 8 years old. The BUILD Initiative, a national initiative created in 2002 that has worked with several states on comprehensive early childhood system development, assembled a team of national experts to assist Connecticut with this critical undertaking. Kristin Wiggins, Dovetailing’s affiliated consultant, was part of this team.


In July 2011, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act 11-181 which required the state to have in place a “coordinated system of early care and education and child development” in two years. In response to this mandate to develop comprehensive and aligned policies, responsibilities, practices and services to improve positive outcomes for children ages birth to 8 years old and their families, the Connecticut Early Childhood Funders Collaborative partnered in earnest with the state.

While there are comparable states to review and learn from, each state that creates a new or redesigned early childhood system has many complex considerations and tough decisions to make that are based on their unique populations, existing infrastructure and leadership, geography and politics.

States have taken different paths for development and integration of their early learning systems. Additionally, each state also has a different structures that  govern K-12 education, higher education and health services. Often authority is divided among the Governor, Legislature and separately elected K-12 executives. In many states, the federal mandate to create Early Learning Advisory Councils and the trend toward public-private partnerships has created a myriad of ways to put the governance puzzle together.


The BUILD project team conducted national research on governance structures as well as Connecticut-specific research. Kristin led the Connecticut-specific research, which involved designing an interview protocol, interviewing 39 key informants with diverse vantage points and creating a key findings report. Interviews were designed to elicit multi-dimensional insights, information and opinions that provided deeper understanding of the political environment, tensions among existing players, state of readiness for improved coordination and opportunities and pitfalls involved in making system improvements. This built upon previous work Kristin completed with BUILD for Connecticut where she helped create a number of state governance profiles to help Connecticut consider which models were viable.


The BUILD project team published two reports: a national research report showing governance models and state practices for system building; and a state key findings report from the key informant interviews. Additionally, the BUILD team presented the implications of its findings for development of viable next steps for strategic planning for the effectiveness and sustainability of the new governance structure; identifying roles for public and private partners; and responsiveness to the legislative mandate. Together the state and national research served as the foundation for designing the next steps toward creating the State’s coordinated early learning system.