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“Cost is one of the big reasons Julie Groce—an educator and mother in Grand Blanc, Mich.—waited until she was in her mid-thirties to have her son. ‘We wanted to be financially ready. We thought we were doing the right thing. Turns out, it didn’t matter. Like, it does not matter. It’s going to suck you dry no matter what,’ Groce recently told Fortune’s Alexis Haut on the new podcast focused on childcare, Where’s My Village?

“Like many parents of young children, Groce is counting down the months until she can enroll her son in public school. ‘We paid $1,200 a month, which is how much our mortgage is. So we pay two mortgages,’ she explains on the podcast, adding that their childcare provider, like many across the country, recently increased tuition costs. 

“That cost, however, is a double-edged sword, Groce says. ‘I’m torn because on one hand, it is 1,000% worth it—the way that he’s growing and thriving, totally worth it. If I could pay more, I would, but I also want to be able to pay the bills and pay our mortgage.’ ”

“Childcare costs are bleeding many families dry. This map shows how expensive it is in your state,” by Megan Leonhardt, Fortune, October 19, 2022

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”Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration is releasing $70 million in state funding that will be used to provide bonus payments to the staff of child care providers in Connecticut who provide safe and nurturing care to the state’s youngest infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Individual bonuses will amount to $1,000 for full-time workers and $400 for part-time workers.

“The governor explained that this initiative, known as Wage Supports for Early Childhood Educators, was created to show gratitude for the service of child care workers, particularly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was included as part of the state budget bill that he signed into law earlier this year.

“ ‘Child care staff work consistently to provide critically needed care to ensure that children are safe and their parents and guardians have the support necessary to go to work,’ Governor Lamont said. ‘They are an essential part of our economy and help make Connecticut the most family-friendly state in the country. We need to support this important industry that is vital to families, the workplace, and society.’ ”

“Governor Lamont Announces $70 Million in Appreciation Bonus Payments for Connecticut Child Care Workers,” The Office of Governor Ned Lamont, October 6, 2022

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U.S Capitol

Photo: Thuan Vo from Pexels

Last fall, excitement buzzed around the federal Build Back Better bill. It was a sweeping social spending bill that promised to make a historic investment in early education and care, including universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and more affordable, high-quality child care.

The bill was passed in the House. Excitement grew. But in the Senate, Build Back Better faced opposition it could not overcome.

What emerged months later was a compromise – the Inflation Reduction Act – which had no funding at all for early education and care.

A Hechinger Report article sums up the field’s reaction: disappointment and determination.

“ ‘It’s heartbreaking,’ Julie Kashen, a senior fellow and director for women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation, said, while also noting the need to build upon some of the positive publicity that came out of the protracted battle. ‘Child care has become a national issue in a very powerful way. We are closer than we had been in 50 years,’ she said. ‘What else can we do but continue to fight?’ ”

“That’s why Kashen is already looking to what’s next: boosting a national movement and building a web of advocates who help keep child care needs front and center for legislators and businesses. ‘Employers must speak up so people understand that this is not a family problem, it’s an economic issue, and it is something Congress has to act upon,’ Kashen said.”

Mark Reilly has a similar response: Seize the momentum and move forward.

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“Parents and families rightfully wonder ‘Why is child care so expensive?’ The reality is that it’s expensive because it costs a lot to provide good, high-quality care. Child care providers are not collecting vast sums of money and hoarding it for themselves while not paying their teachers. It’s quite the opposite. They are making every last cent stretch as far as they can. Sometimes by not paying themselves. The simple fact is that we cannot sustain child care the way it exists now and both pay teachers the wages they deserve and keep care affordable for families. It is not possible.

“So what will solve the problem? Public funding. The only way to make child care affordable for families and pay teachers the wages they deserve is to publicly fund child care.”

“Public funding would bridge the gap between what families can afford and the costs to run a quality program that can pay teachers what they deserve. We strongly support the recommendation that for child care to be ‘affordable’ for a family, that family should not pay more than 7% of their income for child care. Right now, many of our families pay 30-40% of their income for child care which is hard to even imagine.”

“Child care pros on squaring the circle of low wages and high costs: We need public funding,” by Tracie Myers, Katy Knudtson, and Stacey Flanigan, The Minnesota Reformer, September 29, 2022

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Advocates have long called for early education and care to be treated as a public good – just like public schools or the infrastructure of roads and bridges needed to maintain a 21st century workforce. We are grateful for the close collaboration and appreciate the decisions our elected officials have made to support and stabilize the early education and care sector over the last two pandemic years.

While the worst may be behind us, we’re not out of the woods yet. This election year is especially important as we move towards sustainability and growth.

So please be a Champion for Young Children! Here’s how:

As a Voter

• REGISTER: If you are new to voting in U.S. elections, you have recently moved to the state of Massachusetts, or you simply need to update your registration information, visit the Online Voter Registration System. The voter registration deadline is Saturday, October 29, 2022.

• Learn about with your district and elected officials. Every 10 years, districts for members of Congress, the State House of Representatives, the State Senate, and the Governor’s Council are re-drawn by the Legislature. This process happens after each federal census in order to make sure each district is made up of approximately the same number of people. Learn more about redistricting in Massachusetts here.

• Learn about the candidates. Click here for the full list of state election candidates.

• Engage Candidates and Community: Ask questions about their education platforms and/or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper urging candidates to prioritize young children in the election. If you need assistance, contact Marisa FearStrategies for Children’s associate director of research and policy.

• VOTE on (or before) Tuesday, November 8th! Click here for early voting information and instructions on how to vote by mail. Plan ahead for in person voting by looking up your poll place and election information.

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“The latest results of the longest-running study of state-funded pre-K in the nation strengthen the case for universal programs open to all young children.

“Released Tuesday by researchers at Georgetown University, the results show that young adults who attended a universal pre-K program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as 4-year-olds were more likely to graduate from high school on time and enroll in college than peers who didn’t attend.

“They’re also more civically engaged. The percentage of former pre-K students who registered to vote and actually cast ballots was 4.5 points higher than for those who started kindergarten without pre-K.

“ ‘Middle class kids benefit from a strong program,’ said William Gormley, a professor and co-director of the Center for Research on Children in the U.S. ‘Disadvantaged kids benefit even more.’ ”

“Results From Long-Running Study Bolster Case for Universal Pre-K,” by Linda Jacobson, The 74, September 20, 2022

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kindergarten

Photo: Ksenia Chernaya, Pexels

Parents can’t always count on kindergarten. That’s the moral of a story told in the Atlantic.

“At age 5 and 6, children are at a crucial stage in brain development,” the Atlantic’s article says. “Educators, advocates, researchers, and state officials largely agree that full-day [kindergarten] programming is beneficial for children, both academically and socially. Studies have shown that kids enrolled in full-day offerings make greater advances in literacy than those enrolled in half-day ones. These gains are maintained for years.”

In other words, free, full-day kindergarten programs ought to be easy to find.

However the growth of kindergarten in public schools, the article explains, has “happened gradually. It arrived in the 19th century as a privately funded educational venture. By the start of World War I, the grade had become part of all major city public-school districts, and by 1965, more than 2 million children across 40 states were enrolled. Most early kindergarten programs offered only half-day coverage, but in the past several decades, full-day programs have become more common. The grade got more attention in the early 2000s with the introduction of the No Child Left Behind Act.”

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“To meet the caregiving needs of the K-12 educator workforce and the developmental needs of the youngest students, the United States needs sustained, significant federal investments in the accessibility and affordability of high-quality child care.”

“Why K-12 Teachers and Their Students Need Investments in Child Care,” by Emily Katz, The Center for American Progress, June 8, 2022 

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The new 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out. It’s the annual, Annie E. Casey Foundation report that takes a deep dive into how the nation’s children are doing.

This year, the data book points out that while the pandemic and widespread economic uncertainty have caused harm, there are also pockets of progress. 

This year’s report focuses on children’s mental health.

“As of July 2022, the health crisis had killed more than 1 million people in America, including more than 1,600 children,” the foundation says of the pandemic’s impact. “During this same time span, more than 200,000 kids had lost a parent or primary caregiver to the virus.”

This has “helped fuel what the U.S. surgeon general has called a mental health pandemic for youth. According to the Data Book, the incidence of anxiety and depression among kids has spiked. Comparing pre-pandemic to the first year of the COVID-19 crisis: The share of children struggling to make it through the day rose nearly 26% — from 9.4% (5.8 million kids) in 2016 to 11.8% (7.3 million kids) in 2020.”

Another challenge is racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties that have con­tributed to “dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly trou­bling men­tal health and well­ness con­di­tions among chil­dren of col­or. Nine per­cent of high-school­ers over­all but 12% of Black stu­dents, 13% of stu­dents of two or more races, and 26% of Amer­i­can Indi­an or Native Alaskan high-school­ers attempt­ed sui­cide in the year pri­or to the most recent fed­er­al sur­vey.”

In addition, “many LGBTQ young peo­ple are encoun­ter­ing chal­lenges as they seek men­tal health sup­port. Among het­ero­sex­u­al high school stu­dents of all races and eth­nic­i­ties, 6% attempt­ed sui­cide; the share was 23% for gay, les­bian or bisex­u­al students.”

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“More than two years after the start of the pandemic, the child care workforce—mostly employing women and, disproportionately, women of color—continues to operate below pre-pandemic levels. This not only harms the sector but also precludes workers with caregiving responsibilities, primarily mothers, from fully participating in the labor force.”

“Without new government investments aimed directly at improving job quality—including through increasing wages for staff—the child care sector will not make up its significant shortfall in workers. Policymakers must meet the moment and invest in child care immediately, particularly since child care workers are essential to keeping the U.S. economy strong.”

“The Child Care Sector Will Continue To Struggle Hiring Staff Unless It Creates Good Jobs,” by Maureen Coffey and Rose Khattar, The Center for American Progress, September 2, 2022

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