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Education Attainment Division

Supporting Infants, Toddlers and Parents in Economic Recovery

Amy Shields on Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 11:00:00 am

The lack of quality, affordable early childhood programs is one of the most pressing issues for working parents today. Chambers can be effective change agents and advocates for early childhood education in communities across the country. Focusing on infants and toddlers is good for the economy, good for our youngest children and good for our workforce, both today and tomorrow.

The statistics surrounding the availability of quality early education programs are concerning. Only 7% of eligible children are served by Early Head Start, and the cost of infant care is more expensive than in-state public college tuition in 33 states. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the availability of quality childcare programs even more drastically. According to a Bipartisan Policy Center survey in early April, 61% of parents reported their child care provider closed due to COVID-19.

Quality early education is also instrumental in developing the next generation of the workforce. Critical development happens from ages 0-3 age group, which can be foundational for growth and development later in life. Research shows that investing in programs for infants and toddlers can help bridge equity gaps, promote economic mobility for working families and provide foundational resources to set infants and toddlers up for academic success.

Chambers of commerce are uniquely capable of providing business knowledge and supporting local initiatives to help local early childhood programs and working parents. The Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce recently committed to taking part in an early childhood task force in Arkansas. Steve Cox, senior vice president of economic development, shared, “Our Chamber is excited to be working with Cirricula Concepts to help increase access and overall quality of early childhood education for the Northwest Arkansas region. As we continue to grow and thrive as a region, it is vital to invest time and resources into providing affordable high-quality early childhood education for children and parents. These initiatives fall in line with our workforce and economic development mission work. We work with area organizations to train childcare providers and assist in opening new facilities to allow our existing workforce to stay active in their careers without worrying about access to quality childcare. Programs such as our Kindergarten to Job (K2J) and partnerships with area schools and childcare facilities are creating education pathways and setting up future generations for career success that can bring about generational change.”

Here are some other examples of how chambers are approaching early childhood supports:

ACCE’s roundtable call on this topic last year provided other examples of innovative programs in this area. You may also find ACCE’s brief Earliest Supports for Equitable Economic Recovery helpful. For more information on what is happening at the state policy level and research on building a state roadmap to support infants and toddlers, visit the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center. With increased support of early childhood education programs, chambers can support the workforce of today and the foundation for a better tomorrow.

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