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Screenshot: Center for American Progress website

“As the country enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents, employers, and early education professionals are desperate to see the U.S. Congress pass comprehensive, long-term child care and pre-K legislation.”

“Over a longer period, these investments can provide the social and educational support to prepare young children for a more globalized and competitive economy. Fortunately, the child care and universal pre-K policies that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in the Build Back Better Act are still on the table, and reports of ongoing negotiations seem to suggest that these investments will be integral to the next version of comprehensive legislation.”

“Investing in the child care industry requires increasing workers’ wages. Raising pay for child care workers will not only help with recruitment and retention but, critically, also promote employees’ health and well-being, empowering them to provide nurturing early experiences to the children in their care.”

“Congressional leaders can pass family-friendly legislation that expands and strengthens an enriching, culturally responsive, and equitable child care sector. They must not pass up this vital opportunity.”

“Child Care Spending Generates Massive Dividends” by Hailey Gibbs and Rasheed Malik, Center for American Progress, February 24, 2022

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Child care needs a new business model, according to the national nonprofit First Children’s Finance (FCF).

The current models – center-based care and family child care – are fine. 

But in a policy brief, FCF is supporting the addition of what it calls “mixed-age, small group care in nonresidential spaces.”

One example is a program run by the Chambliss Center for Children in Chattanooga, Tenn. This small group program operates in “single-classroom child care facilities within 13 public schools, which primarily serve the children of teachers,” the brief says, adding:

“Schools and workplaces are both common sites for co-located small group care. Spaces within existing facilities such as community centers, libraries, health centers, town halls, and churches are also attractive possibilities.”

“Another option is a ‘pod model’ which clusters multiple small group providers together in one building. The building may be rented, donated, or partially subsidized by an employer or local nonprofit.”

One program in Minneapolis is a multicultural center that “houses multiple providers’ programs each operating in their own home language.”

(more…)

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“Too often neglected in the history of early childhood education are the stories of women teachers and especially African American women teachers. Find out more about Betsey Stockton, a pioneer early childhood teacher and an African American freedwoman living in the 19th century. Stockton traveled extensively, establishing schools for Hawaiian children and adults on Maui, preschools for African American children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and preschools for Aboriginal children in Canada. After settling in Princeton, New Jersey, she organized and taught in schools for African American children for 30 years, until her death in 1865. Her story shows how one teacher engaged with new approaches to teaching young children and positively impacted the lives of hundreds of children and their families over several generations.”

“Black History and Early Childhood Education: Five Resources to Explore for Black History Month,” NAEYC, February 3, 2022

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“A new Yale study found that child care programs in the United States that practiced child masking early in the COVID-19 pandemic (May-June 2020) experienced a 13% reduction in program closure within the following year, and continued child masking throughout the one-year study period was associated with a 14% reduction in program closure.

“The first-of-its-kind study of child masking, published today in JAMA Network Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Medical Association, followed the experiences of 6,654 center-based and home-based child care professionals from all 50 states during a one-year period (May/June 2020 through May/June 2021).”

“ ‘We have been seeing increased numbers of children, especially young children not yet able to be vaccinated against COVID-19, admitted to our children’s hospital,’ said Thomas Murray, associate medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and the study’s lead author. ‘It is heartening to know that following child masking recommendations for children two years and older may be an effective means for keeping young children in child care programs and potentially lowering their risk for COVID-19.’ ”

“ ‘It’s the disruptions in learning opportunities and care routines that harm children, not the masks,’ said Walter Gilliam, a professor of child psychiatry and psychology at the Yale Child Study Center and the study’s senior author.

“Research has shown that children two years and older can safely wear masks in child care settings. ‘It is our responsibility to protect our young children by providing them with safe learning environments,’ Gilliam said. ‘But we also need to remember that young children are incredibly observant. If they cannot see us smile with our mouths, they still will see us smile with our eyes or in the way in which we talk with them. Young children are incredible that way.’ ”

“For child care programs, masking helped minimize closures, study shows,” Yale News, January 27, 2022

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Early educators’ salaries are going up in Washington, D.C.

As we blogged last month, the work of advocates led the D.C. Council to create a tax increase for individuals whose annual earnings exceed $250,000. Some $75 million of these new funds will support early educators’ salary increases.

The D.C. Council also created an Early Childhood Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force that was charged with how best to accomplish this goal.

As the D.C. Council explains on its website:

“We all know that educating our youngest children isn’t child’s play. Yet the professionals who tackle this challenging and essential work have long been profoundly under-compensated for what they do. At its most recent meeting, the Council took a significant first step towards addressing this long-time injustice, queuing up payments of $10,000 or more this year.”

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

“Child care workers are vanishing and it’s hurting the entire economy,” CNN warns in this headline of one of its business news stories, which reports:

“Since losing one-third of its workforce at the outset of the pandemic, the child care industry has seen a jobs recovery that’s been slow and incomplete.

“And now it’s starting to backslide.

“After shedding 4,500 jobs from September through November, preliminary estimates from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the child day care services industry lost another 3,700 jobs in December.”

And, of course, these workers aren’t actually “vanishing.” They’re being driven out of their jobs by low wages and tough working conditions.

Without enough child care workers, there aren’t enough child care spots, which means many parents will struggle to be able to work, and without enough workers the economy can’t thrive.

“Now that we’re seeing a decrease [in employment], that should be worrying for many folks who are relying on these services,” Caitlin McLean, director of multi-state and international programs at the University of California Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, tells CNN.

“This is absolutely a contributor to the wider worker shortage that we’re seeing.”

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“ ‘I had a parent tell me to f*** off last week,’ Cori Berg said. She directs the Hope Day School, a church-affiliated early childhood program in Dallas.

“The unhappy mother took her two children out of Berg’s center after each of their classrooms were closed for quarantines, saying she’d hire a nanny. Wanting to return, she emailed, called and finally showed up in the middle of the day. Just as Berg had warned her, her spots were taken.

“The mother, according to Berg, threw a fit before coming back and apologizing. ‘She was like a toddler — she was jumping up and down.’

“The people who take care of and educate children under 5 years old — both parents and providers — are in a special kind of hell right now. These children are too young to be vaccinated, and it’s difficult for them to wear masks consistently. Many child care directors, like Berg, are still following 10- or 14-day quarantines, closing entire classrooms after a single positive test, which has caused nonstop disruptions given the current record numbers of COVID-19 cases. Recently, Berg’s infant room had ‘double-decker’ quarantines: closed for two weeks, back for one day, then closed for another two weeks.”

“Parents and caregivers of young children say they’ve hit pandemic rock bottom,” by Anya Kamenetz, NPR, January 20, 2022

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Photo: Ivan Samkov from Pexels

In early education, challenges can sometimes overshadow progress, but today we’re happy to blog about inspiring progress that has been made in the city of Washington, D.C.

The Under 3 DC Coalition, which shines “a spotlight on the need for more public investments to support families with infants and toddlers,” has announced that its efforts have led to an investment of “$75 million that DC will use to begin to publicly fund increases in early childhood educators’ compensation.”

Raising salaries has been an uphill trudge for the field, mostly resulting in small salary increases that lag far behind the earnings of public school teachers doing comparable work. Now, however, the coalition – along with its partners DC Action and Educare DC – have advocated for “a tax increase for individuals with annual incomes above $250,000.”

As Under 3 DC explains, “Building a sustainable workforce by adequate compensation is one of the first steps to create high-quality programs that are accessible to families.” (more…)

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“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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“In 2019, Virginia received federal funding from a Preschool Development Birth through Five grant (PDG), and allocated a considerable portion of their funds for direct financial incentives to early educators. The goal of this program, the Teacher Recognition Program (TRP), was to recognize teachers’ hard work, lower their financial stress, reduce turnover, and create more stable early learning opportunities for children.”

“Teachers at sites that were randomly assigned to the TRP were far less likely to turn over. About one-quarter of all teachers at sites without access to incentives left their site within eight months (see Figure 1 below). Only 14% of teachers eligible for the incentive did.

“The results were even more striking among child-care teachers: The financial incentive cut turnover rates in half, from 30% to 15%.” 

“President Biden’s Build Back Better plan would provide this type of transformative funding, giving states the financial resources and supports needed to meaningfully improve child-care quality in part through compensation reforms. However, getting the bill through the Senate has proved difficult, with growing calls to cut key pieces. Finding a way to pass this legislation, including the investments in the teachers who care for and teach our youngest children, is essential – not only for the struggling child-care sector, but for the economy as a whole. Public investments in early educators are long overdue, and they are imperative for meeting the needs of children, parents, and society.”

“How can we improve early childhood education? Use public dollars to pay teachers more.” by Daphna Bassok and Justin B. Doromal, Brookings, January 5, 2022

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