Educare Five Come Alive: Celebrating Our Policy Progress
June 09, 2022
In June 2021, the Educare Learning Network launched our first-ever public policy agenda, The Educare Five – five priorities that inform our work and guide our policy and advocacy efforts.
Our five public policy priorities are: 1) universal child care and early learning, 2) stable and supported families, 3) thriving early childhood workforce, 4) healthy and supported children, and 5) strong early childhood systems in every community.
Over the past year, we’ve seen our collective efforts advance legislation that benefits children and families, secure policy “wins,” and bolster our early childhood education system so every child has an equitable opportunity to thrive. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Educare Five, here’s a celebratory roundup of policy and advocacy advancements across the Network!
Sharing Our Stories with Federal Policymakers
During an April 2022 convening, Educare teachers and staff from Central Maine, Denver, Long Beach and New Orleans came together to discuss critical challenges facing the early learning workforce, the benefits of working in this field, and how we can advocate for better policies around issues like workforce compensation. Parent leaders from Educare Winnebago and Educare Central Maine served as facilitators for the dialogue. Joining the conversation as listeners were Melissa Brodowski (Deputy Director, ACF Office of Early Childhood Development), Bernadine Futrell (Director, Office of Head Start), and Shannon Rudisill (Executive Director, Early Childhood Funders Collaborative). Here are some of the things we heard:
- “The best part of my job is being able to advocate for children and families on a daily basis. As a family advocate, I want the whole child to succeed – and when I say the whole child, I mean myself, the parents and children. We work hand in hand.” (Kingsley House/Educare New Orleans)
- “We have less, and we have to do more. That depletes us, sometimes, of our motivation and our ability to think through and problem solve. This job is a lot of problem-solving, a lot of higher executive functioning, from the moment we walk in the door ‘til when we leave. That can deplete you rather fast, especially when you have less but must do more.” (Clayton Early Learning/Educare Denver)
- “The data is out there about the impact of an early childhood educator on our communities – how we invest money, prepare better citizens, and so on. We ask our teachers to support families who experience challenges, but we have these same challenges ourselves. We need more economic freedom, so we can be fully engaged and fully present for these children.” (United Way Miami/Educare Miami)
Policy & Advocacy Collaboration
In late 2021, seven Educare schools began dedicated efforts to increase policy & advocacy competencies in their communities and across the Network. Such efforts focused on strengthening federal advocacy and relationships, supporting Network member and family engagement related to the Educare Five, and planning for future Network efforts.
In support of this work, schools were awarded Policy & Advocacy Collaboration grants through the Educare Learning Network and Buffett Early Childhood Fund. From Educare Central Maine expanding Parent Ambassador programs to Educare Miami and Educare Denver parents and staff partnering around housing policy, their collective efforts have reaped rewards across the Network. In California, Educare Silicon Valley and Educare Los Angeles at Long Beach partnered to strengthen their efforts to increase state investments for early learning and advance critical workforce policy. At Educare West DuPage and Educare Oklahoma City, staff worked to build internal organizational capacity for policy and advocacy efforts.
Representatives from each of these schools also worked to develop the first Educare Learning Network Policy & Advocacy Roadmap to help guide our collective efforts moving forward.
Local and State Accomplishments
In late April, “Yes for New Orleans Kids” – an Early Childhood Education proposition – was approved by 61% of voters. This proposition will greatly expand the city of New Orleans’ child care capacity, with funds generated from property taxes to provide access to high-quality early care and education. Learn more about the proposition and the variety of voices and partners involved with this coffee chat video from the Power Coalition for Equity & Justice.
In January 2022, Colorado’s Early Childhood Leadership Commission unanimously approved the state’s Universal Preschool Recommendations – and just a few months later in April, Governor Polis signed a universal preschool bill into law that guarantees every Colorado 4-year-old a chance to attend preschool at no cost to their families.
This year, the Illinois General Assembly approved several pieces of legislation to increase ECE investments. As part of the approved FY23 state budget, nearly $65 million was appropriated in new state general funds for the early care and education system. Check out this comprehensive review of the Illinois legislative session from our partners at Start Early.
In April 2022, Governor Mills signed a bipartisan budget bill that includes a $12 million investment in wage supplements for the early childhood workforce.
Federal Policy Wins
American Rescue Plan
The Network continues to engage in advocacy to secure and extend investments from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which has made significant impact for children and families through legislation like the expanded Child Tax Credits (CTC). Studies from the Center on Poverty & Social Policy and the Urban Institute show that monthly CTC cash payments reduced spells of poverty throughout the year and led to recipients experiencing a larger decline in food insecurity.
Funding Early Childhood is the Right IDEA
The Network signed on as an endorser of the Funding Early Childhood is the Right IDEA Act, which would increase funding for two programs within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specifically designed to serve young children with disabilities. Advocates are hoping to make an aggressive case for funding for these critical programs during the FY23 appropriations cycle.
What We’re Seeing: Trends & the Road Ahead
Several commonalities have emerged across our policy and advocacy efforts over the past year, such as:
- The importance of addressing workforce challenges and the more frequent inclusion of staff perspectives and voices in shaping workforce policy improvements
- The rising interest in growing parent leadership opportunities and deepening efforts of Parent Ambassador programs across the Network
- A significant increase in collaboration between Educare schools around Educare Five priorities.
We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve helped generate and proud of the work we’ve done as a collective Network in advocating on behalf of children and families. However, we know there is much work yet to be done. Our advocacy efforts will remain steadfast, as we must continue to urge Congress to make vital investments for early learning in budget negotiations happening now.
As we look ahead at a new fiscal year, we welcome the opportunity to deepen and expand our policy and advocacy efforts, and invite you to join our Network of early childhood champions! Together, we can make a powerful difference for children, families and communities across the country.