Recently, we heard from the governor during her State of the State address and she mentioned the need for us to focus on common ground. Hope Starts Here policy priorities, which have been shared in previous blog posts, are also in alignment with a bigger issue at hand which identifies the lack of child care prioritization on multiple levels. In this policy corner, we highlight one promising out-of-state model which amplifies the urgency behind making the long-term investment early child care a priority.
Nebraska Department of Education Office of Early Childhood offers leadership, guidance, and support to put children and families first, address equitable access to high-quality programs and services for all children birth through age eight, and outlines ways to strengthen the cross-sector workforce. In 2017 the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission identified a 58,000 shortage of early childhood professionals. Nebraska developed a comprehensive plan in January 2020 after three years of convening 40 private and public sector early childhood educators (ECE) professionals. Through a deep dive, these educators and professionals found, in 2016, the median wage for early childhood professionals $18,706 which was $1400 below the federal poverty line for a family of three. The Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission findings indicate the need for a highly qualified workforce. More specifically, it found inconsistent regulations, high turnover, varying ability to access early care, affordability concerns, and the importance of prioritizing early child care as a long-term investment. As we find common ground, we can align these findings with Hope Starts Here policy priorities especially the need to establish and sustain a comprehensive workforce strategy.
Michigan, like Nebraska, is in need of a highly qualified comprehensive childhood workforce. When there is an investment in early childhood education, parents/guardians are able to support their families. Further, children can benefit because early care is critical to children’s educational success, especially in math and reading, and overall. Finally, our society can benefit largely because the workforce can be sustained. Due to the lack of access to high-quality child care many families most recently had to determine who could leave the workforce to ensure they had reliable care for their children.
To fully fund high-quality early care and education to meet the needs of families, both private and public investments are critical. In the U.S., the workforce is suffering immensely due to a lack of child care and the cost of child care has almost tripled since 1990 which poses a cost barrier to families. In other countries the government pays most of the child care costs of their citizens (Sweden, Denmark, & Finland). If the U.S. is to be globally competitive, a world leader, then it, too, must stabilize and grow child care with significant structural change and investment.