We Must Encourage Investments in Quality Early Education Opportunities
Publication: Ed and Labor Journal Blog
In today's Education and Labor Committee hearing, we heard from experts in early education and child care from across the country. The panel testified to the importance of investing in high quality early education and child care opportunities for children from birth to five. We also saw that the entire panel agreed that the debate about the importance of quality early childhood education is over; study after study has shown that high quality early education does make a positive difference in a child's life. Children who attend good preschools are more likely to perform well in school and graduate from high school, and are less likely to commit a crime or use drugs. With that important debate settled, we need to work with states to encourage investments in quality early education opportunities.
The states represented in today's hearing - Nebraska, Georgia, Illinois, New York, and Kansas - have demonstrated that state and local commitments to investing in early education and child care can be successful. As Jessie Rasmussen, vice president of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund in Nebraska, explained, "common quality standards, clear pathways to meeting research-based standards of quality, sufficient funding for not only reaching these standards but for sustaining quality operations, and flexibility in meeting family needs have been essential elements in our efforts to build a comprehensive, highly effective, birth to five early childhood system." Those same sentiments were echoed by other panelists who also pointed to research-based policy making and statewide collaboration as critical components of successful early education initiatives.
Other common themes we heard in today's hearing had to do with ensuring access to high quality child care and early education opportunities, supporting families in their role as children's first and most important teachers, and the need for improved data collection and analysis so we can learn from and improve on what we know works. We also heard that federal early education policy should foster collaboration at the state level and allow flexibility for states, as some states are further along the spectrum of access and quality, and every state has its own strengths and cultural needs.
Many states - including my home state of Hawaii - have a lot of work ahead of us before our children will have access to high quality child care and preschools. From what we've heard from our panel today, investments in early education are especially important now during this economic downturn. As more parents lose their jobs and more homes are lost through foreclosures, we must continue to support families in providing affordable, safe, consistent learning environments for their children.