Should business leaders care about early childhood education? Madeleine Baker, CEO of Early Childhood Alliance for more than a decade, advocates for quality early childhood education not only for children’s and families’ benefit, but also for the short-term and long-term impact that it has across the business community. As a former human resources manager, Madeleine knows first-hand the direct benefits for employers:
- With the majority of parents working, the availability, accessibility, and affordability of quality local child care is a significant draw for employees who have young children.
- Studies show that child care issues are problematic for families. When parents have quality, reliable care for their children, employers experience reduced absenteeism and turnover, and increased productivity.
- The availability of quality early childhood care leads to greater availability of working adults and increased opportunity for advanced education.
With that said, there are even more benefits for community investment in early childhood education that are long-term. Children learn from birth. In fact, the foundation for lifelong learning capacity is established during a child’s earliest years, from 0 to 5. Those early learning experiences set the stage for school readiness and beyond… into the workforce.
In 2014 Indiana spent nearly $22 million on 4,500 children repeating kindergarten because those children started their school experience unprepared. Chances are, as studies indicate, that those children are not reading at grade level by third grade and many will never catch up in later years. Remediation for those children costs money, taxpayer money, and in the long run, the lack of quality education and learning will limit economic growth.
The need for investment in the early years is real. One in four children in northeast Indiana live in poverty and are most at risk of entering their school years unprepared to learn. Quality learning experiences need to be available, accessible and affordable for all children.
An important move to improve quality of early education in Indiana was the adoption of a quality rating and improvement system statewide several years ago. Paths to QUALITYTM is that system, with voluntary participation and four-levels of quality. Developed in Fort Wayne and first implemented by Early Childhood Alliance, it is a tool for parents who are looking for early care and education programs. Parents can now identify not only programs that participate in Paths to QUALITY but what level of quality each has achieved. It also gives child care providers a framework for improving their programs to Level 4, the highest level, which includes national accreditation.
Employers can help their workforce achieve the highest levels of productivity and economic growth, both now and in years to come, by investing in quality early childhood education. And some of the first steps are easy to do, such as making sure employees get information on Paths to QUALITY; putting a FREE Child Care Search button on their websites and internal communications; subsidizing child care as an employee benefit; and supporting family-friendly policies in the workplace.
Advocating for quality early care and education is important for the future of so many young children, but also for the business community moving forward. Everyone will benefit.