Early childhood education ranks as top priority for voters

Early childhood education ranks as top priority for voters

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For three years running, the First Five Years Fund’s annual bipartisan poll shows that early childhood education is a national priority for Americans, regardless of party. ““For the first time in our three years of polling, American voters’ top priority is making sure children get a strong start in life, a concern equal to improving the overall quality of public education,” says Kris Perry, Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund. In the poll, 89% of voters agree that we need to ensure more children don’t miss out on early learning and socialization experiences during the first five years of life when the brain develops more dramatically. 63% strongly agree on this point.


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What does this mean for Wisconsin?
For WECA – a statewide organization focused on the child care workforce and programs that raise childcare quality – the findings inspire us to keep moving forward. In myriad ways WECA calls for greater investment in quality early care. Our outreach, education and advocacy on this issue is multi-faceted. In 2015 WECA published Starting Early, Starting Now, a research report that outlines potential ways forward in funding a child care delivery system in Wisconsin that is accessible and affordable to all families. Our interactive “Jack’s story” shows the return on investment Wisconsin taxpayers will see when young children get quality early care right from the start. And as the source detail notes – the financial projections are conservative. Throughout the year WECA staff meet with Wisconsin legislators and serve as policy advisors on key state and national committees focused on young children and the early childhood workforce that is so central to the outcomes we seek. WECA works with community partners and recently, sponsored a viewing and discussion of the Raising of America documentary that is traveling throughout the U.S.

As we move closer to the general election cycle we’ll be increasing our outreach and education on behalf of early childhood education investments in Wisconsin.

Your support is needed – as an advocate in our Forward for Kids initiative – and as a donor.  Contributions enable WECA to strengthen its statewide advocacy work that unites families, policymakers, child care providers and others in building a high quality and affordable system of early care and education for all children.

“The Raising of America” and a view from Wisconsin.

Among the 29 richest countries in the world, the US ranks 26th in child well-being. How can that be?

The Raising of America, a soon-to-be released PBS documentary, explores the connection between a strong early childhood education system and a child’s overall well-being.  To this point, the film reveals that the U.S. ranks 16th in child care affordability and 22nd in child care quality.

At a pre-screening last fall, viewers asked “What’s being done?” and “What can we do?”

Nesting graphicIn response, WECA and eight other organizations dedicated to children and families will be hosting a Wisconsin World Café in April for a variety of community leaders. Participants will participate in small-table discussions about children, families, and communities and what they need to succeed.

Also attending is, Dr. Renée Boynton-Jarrett, a pediatrician and researcher, who appears in the documentary. Using the metaphor of a nest, Dr. Boynton-Jarrett sheds some light on the interdependent nature of young children, their families, their larger community, and culture.

“So you have a child who is an individual with their biology, their genetics, and their personality characteristics,” Dr. Boynton-Jarrett explains in the documentary The Raising of America. “They are nested in their family, their peers, and their close social relationships. But that is nested in another level that is your school, your community institutions, your neighborhood. That level is nested within our cultural, our laws, our policies, our social structures, our systems. As a society, where do we see the role of our policies? Is it part of that role to help children grow and develop?”

For more, watch this 11 minute preview clip.

Next month, WECA will highlight the event and report on the discussion. Stay tuned.

We Must Do Better in “The Raising of America”

We Must Do Better in “The Raising of America”

Recently, WECA co-sponsored a screening of The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation, a PBS documentary that studies brain development in infants and the importance of quality early care for all children. The film revealed disconcerting statistics about child well-being in America.

overall child well-beingSource: Unicef 

How can it be that America ranks so low when it comes to ensuring quality early care for children? Following the film, a panel engaged the audience in discussion. Here are their perspectives: Ruth Schmidt, Wisconsin Early Childhood Association “The film places a fragile system of child care front and center in the discourse of what we need to improve as a state and nation to ensure that all our children get the best possible start in life and enter public school equally ready to succeed, regardless of socioeconomic status. Until we figure out how to make high quality child care affordable for all families we will continue to pay the later costs of remedial education, high school dropout rates, public assistance dependence, teen pregnancy, incarceration and health disparities.”

Raising of America panel

The panel (from left): Dr. Susan Ehrlich, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Fabiola Hamdan, Joining Forces for Families, Ruth Schmidt, Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, Quinton Cotton, Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families and Dr. Maria Stanley, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Dr. Maria Stanley, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health “I don’t think that there is one magic answer, but we need to look in a global way at how we support families. Looking for example at mental health resources for parents and good access to medical care and providers who understand and care about children and do appropriate screening and support for families. It’s also about good childcare and making sure that this can be a reality by paying people enough to do that work,…by valuing the work.” Quinton Cotton, Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families “One of the key issues is the availability and accessibility of information for young families. It’s very difficult for new parents to identify resources and feel comfortable operating in new situations. Often times they don’t know where to start and they may have questions about which programs are appropriate for them. We all share a responsibility in assuring that young children and their families have the best possible start that they can. I think there is some important contribution that we all can play.” Your Thoughts? Did you attend the screening?  We want to hear from you! What direction do we need to take to make our children’s path to succeed a better and healthier one? What are the issues that take precedence? Share your thoughts by commenting below. We thank American Family Children’s Hospital and sponsors for providing this opportunity and initiating this important forum.  We look forward to advancing the well-being of children and families through collaborative efforts such as this.