In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.
–President Barack Obama
In California we were thrilled to hear President Obama propose a bold plan calling for Early Education For All. The President’s words resonated with thousands of Californians, including front-line caregivers, women’s equality groups, immigrant and civil rights leaders, child development and health experts, educators, union members, clergy, small businesses and outspoken parents from Palo Alto’s suburbs to South LA’s neighborhood justice networks. We are all committed to speaking out and uniting for reforms that will help children succeed, give parents the peace of mind that their kids are well cared for, and strengthen our economy.
In recent months, we’ve been excited to hear policy-makers across the country debating this long-ignored but vitally important issue. The reality is that children and families across that U.S. can no longer afford the status quo.
In California alone, there are 300,000 children going without child care services, many the result of cuts in recent years. Every child that stays on that waiting list instead of being in the caring hands of an early learning provider is being robbed of a critical learning opportunity. And when it comes to our littlest learners, the stakes are higher. Research tells us that 90% of a child’s brain develops by age five, in other words – it’s now or never.
Study after study shows that children enrolled in high-quality early education programs go on to perform better in elementary and secondary school, are more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, be employed, and be in good health, and are less likely to become involved with crime or in need of welfare (NWLC, 2013).
Programs that serve children in their earliest years results in the biggest “bang for our buck” and should be a cornerstone of any education policy change and financial investment.
As our children’s first teachers, child care providers and early educators are the primary ‘brain builders’ we count on to make sure our kids are ready to start school on day one. In California these front-line caregivers are working hard to make sure children are prioritized – not just in words but also in actions. Child care providers throughout the Golden State are actively involved in advocating for the latest training and oversight needed to improve the quality of child care and they are fighting for a seat at the table to help hammer out real solutions to state’s broken child care system.
Today we know children are born ready to learn. Under President Obama’s new plan, infants, and toddlers would have greater access to the key early learning opportunities necessary to succeed in life. It is time to make early education a reality for every child in America.