The Urgent Need for Effective Child Care and ECE Policy

In this GLR Learning Tuesdays webinar, co-sponsored by Early Learning Nation Magazine, we heard a riveting conversation about early childhood policy — past, present and future.

Moderator Michelle Kang of NAEYC opened the session by recognizing the essential yet currently undervalued and undercompensated role that child care and education professionals have, and by a brief explanation of “how we got here.” Following this introduction, Kang was joined by Elliot Haspel of Capita and Katharine Stevens of Center on Child and Family Policy who reflected on Build Back Better, applauding its attempts to inject highly needed funding and create access to high-quality child care. Both, however, agreed that BBB did not sufficiently support pluralism and parent choice in terms of what kind of child care families have access to.

“Child care is locked by its economic fundamentals. You can nibble on the edges with regulation. You can nibble on the edges with some of these economies of scale, but ultimately it’s a human-intensive service to provide, and it should be a human-intensive service to provide. It’s going to be expensive.” – Elliot Haspel, Capita

Next, Stephanie Schmit of Center for Law and Social Policy shared insights into the behind-the-scenes process of getting BBB introduced, outlining some of the limitations and challenges posed by the “uncharted territory” of such large-scale child care legislation, the mindset shifts that come along with that, and what was learned to improve future legislative attempts.

We then heard from Laura Valle-Gutierrez of The Century Foundation about the very real impact that the end of pandemic rescue funding will have on families, children, child care providers and early childhood professionals, the majority of the latter being women of color. She was followed by Jessica Sager of All Our Kin who reminded everyone on the webinar of the following:

“What we are hearing from educators is this: For a moment, during the pandemic we were seen and recognized as essential workers. And now conditions have not essentially changed. And yet the funding that made it possible for us to do this work is going away. It feels like we and the children and families in our care have been abandoned…every family child care program is a community resource. It’s a hub. Sometimes it served generations of families, and when that program is gone, it is going to take decades to replace it. So the harm that we are doing to children, families and the economy in both the short term and the long term really cannot be overstated.”

Lisa Roy of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood echoed Sager’s sentiment, stating that the business community needs to get involved in recognizing and advocating for the benefits of robust early childhood systems, in addition to sharing the work that Colorado is doing in this sector.

The conversation ended with a discussion of future policy priorities to work toward a real early childhood system, the common threads of which were that the current system is not working, we need large-scale funding, and families need access to high-quality choices for their child care needs.