At the top, but still lagging: early child care in Alabama

By Amy Sedlis, Childcare Resources Board of Directors Member

**A shorter version of this blog post was featured in the “Your View” section of the Birmingham News on 4/17/2012.

The Birmingham News’ April 10th front page story on Alabama’s First Class pre-K program was appropriately positioned – right there in the headlines – sharing in the recognition of Alabama’s stellar 4-year old state funded Pre-K known as First Class.

Yet, like many other state funded programs First Class faces dire funding challenges. The News quickly praised Alabama for its excellence the past 6 years in which First Class has met or exceeded 10 national quality benchmarks. However, the ongoing struggle is to find enough funding to provide all 4-year old children with the same excellent learning opportunities.

We have seen, read and know that early care and education funding is neither a democrats nor republican issue. Pre K (and one would be remiss to leave out infants and toddler programming) has the potential to change the education conversation in Alabama and nationwide. Alabama’s commitment to children cannot fall to the wayside.  In fact, Alabama has an obligation to find ways to help more families as incomes and jobs are in danger.

Programming is only one part of the early care and education system. Training and continuing education for child care providers is another crucial piece of the pie.  Providing quality training is costly and requires additional funding. Agencies like Childcare Resources, which recently received National Accreditation from the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, provide training for child care providers year round, and heavily relies on state funding. Childcare Resources provides a critical role in helping parents locate and pay for child care.

Without these programs, families would be desperate at such a wonderful, yet colossal time in their lives.  Such solutions do exist. Public and private partnerships in several states have proven to do both efficiently and effectively. All one has to do is look at France–Read the child care chapter from Druckerman’s best selling Bringing up Bebe.

Lots of studies have shown how other countries have successful child care systems. It’s time for America to get on board.

Thus, the question remains: will more corporations step up and invest in early care and education, or continue funding other programs that do not have as strong of a strong economic return in this investment?

I hope we find an answer and do not forget about early care and education as we debate charter schools and other educational woes. Educators, economists and child advocates know the answer and are waiting and willing to move forward.

**Read more about Pre K in Alabama’s sixth year at the top.

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