Engaging businesses can help a region meet its needs in early childhood education (ECE), according to a May 10 presentation made to Vital Communities’ Corporate Council, a group of top representatives of locally based employers.
JD Chesloff, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, which includes the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education, said getting businesses involved in ECE has helped the Coalition hit milestones in:
· Increasing advocacy around early childhood education (ECE)
· Engaging business leaders to see how the ECE crisis is affecting them
· Acquiring funding for research, resulting in clear and simple data to drive legislative decisions
· Creating a blueprint on ECE financing and policy
Chesloff emphasized that, when doing work to ease the childcare crisis, it’s important for businesses to share their best practices in supporting their employees with childcare as well as to quantify the economic impact the ECE crisis has on communities.
The presentation also included Dr. Joanne Roberts, Superintendent of the Lebanon, NH school district and Consultant for the Vital Communities ECE Initiative, who spoke about the Initiative’s work in increasing the availability and affordability of ECE in the Upper Valley. She shared U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stating childcare workers in Vermont earn an annual mean wage of $32,950 or $15.84/hour while childcare workers in New Hampshire earn an annual mean wage of $24,490 or $11.77/hour. Neither of these amounts is sustainable for living in the Upper Valley. All members of our communities are suffering from the broken system.
Roberts’ presentation quoted one parent as saying:
I know parents living in nearby communities are having similar experiences, whether long waitlist times or long commutes…waking up at 4:30 to rally just a single child and all of the logistics that go with childcare and the workplace.
We do it because we want to live and work here. But it’s stressful and really gives pause to any recommendations we might have to peers wondering if the Upper Valley, as amazing as it is, is right for families. And what is a place without multigenerational capacity?
ECE is not babysitting. It needs to be more, and the funding that we put into it should truly be for ECE, but the evidence isn’t clearly there for some facilities especially when their regular or temporary staff often have minimal or “in progress” qualifications.
As a parent, knowing how impactful the early years are for development, not having definite and consistent quality care and choice definitely adds a chip to the parental guilt pile. And has societal repercussions for our local and national economic/health prospects.
While the scope of the issue can feel daunting, everyone can take steps to support ECE efforts, including:
· Join one of the Vital Communities Early Childhood Education Committees
· Sign up to the Vital Communities ECE listserv and keep up to date
· Advocate by contacting VT and NH legislators
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on how you can get involved!