Bob Norris: Early childhood education is good for everyone

We all should be interested in providing adequate high quality early childhood education to prepare children for the many excellent programs provided by the St. Vrain Valley and Boulder Valley school districts. We have talked about the benefit to children and their parents. Children who attend preschool education are more likely to graduate from high school, attend and graduate from college, have better paying careers, and be less likely to commit crimes,

The most recent Time magazine has an article on how the cost of early childhood education is devastating to many families.  Parents who wish to work cannot do so because they cannot afford child care. By staying home for five years, a parent will lose $650,00 in lost wages, wage growth and retirement benefits.

What we have not talked about is the benefits to business. Parents want their children to be in a safe space while they are at work and want their children to benefit from their daytime experiences. Having affordable early childhood education (ECE) allows many more qualified employees to work.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has conducted studies that provide insight into why businesses should support ECE opportunities:

“High quality, affordable, and accessible childcare has a significant impact on the economic growth and competitiveness of our companies and country. Yet America is facing a childcare challenge that threatens the productivity and strength of the work force today — as well as the quality of the workforce tomorrow.”

Takeaways from one of their reports:

“Turnover as a result of lack of childcare costs businesses 20% of an hourly employee’s salary and up to 150% of a manager’s salary”

“Lack of access to quality and childcare is a significant barrier that limits the supply of talent. Companies that take an active role in helping their employees secure these services generate billions of dollars a year in revenue due to increased workforce participation.”

$3 billion in revenue is lost annually due to employee absenteeism as the result of childcare breakdowns.

Formal day cares face the problems of a lack of qualified teachers and turnover due to low pay and yet having to charge amounts above what many parents can pay. With free full day kindergarten in Colorado, more complete solutions for younger children are still needed that meet parents work schedules.

Quality home day care has been a solution for many families, particularly for families where the children are still learning English. The training of family, friends and neighbor home day care providers is important. The PASO program provided by the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition (CSPC) has been determined by an outside five year longitudinal study to result in children being significantly better prepared for first grade and kindergarten academically and in other important ways.

To learn more about PASO go to www.coparentcoalition.org, where you can also learn about the informative breakfast on Nov. 7 at the Butterfly Pavilion.

For families with a stay home parent, programs like PASO and Las Padres and Las Madres (CSPC) are beneficial for young children.

The Chamber has several recommendations for businesses:

“Find out what your employee’s needs are.”

“Offer flexible work arrangements.”

“Educate you employees about their tax and subsidy eligibility.” (The Colorado Legislature passed some good bills this year.)

“Contribute to or subsidize childcare.”

”Provide access to a child care marketplace or resource and referral service.”

“Provide backup care options.”

“Provide on-site childcare.”

Some large companies (and nonprofits) have provided on-site child care while some have worked with other companies to provide childcare opportunities that meets the needs of the employees of each of the cooperating companies.

According to the Chamber and peer review studies: $1 invested in early childhood education programs can lead to $16 in the pockets of the community.

Currently there are a number of interested people with interest and experience in ECE that are meeting to find solutions to increasing the availability of high quality ECE.

Bob was fortunate to have moved in the year 2000 to Longmont, where he has devoted time to social justice and environmental issues.

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