VOICES: ‘Investing in early childhood education is investing in our future’

Emily Broughton/Contributed
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Emily Broughton/Contributed

Emily Broughton/Contributed
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Emily Broughton/Contributed

The state of child care is in a crisis. If we believe that children are the future, then we need to start funding early childhood education and providing all children with the same opportunities for educational trajectory. The Great Resignation is upon us, as many parents are departing from jobs with a traditional work day due to an inability to reconcile child care costs.

For many, the pandemic highlighted a need for flexible child care schedules or the ability to work from home with small children. This crisis disproportionately affects mothers, who often bear the brunt of child care responsibilities. These women must now choose between furthering their own careers and providing the best options for their families. It is often unrealistic to find affordable, high-quality child care.

Numerous studies have proven that education begins at birth, so why don’t we fund early childhood education like we fund Kindergarten-12th grade? Two children could be born five miles apart geographically and receive a drastically different start to their education based on the child care that is available to them. This foundational learning sets the tone for the rest of their educational journey, and drastically changes the trajectory of learning based on socioeconomic factors.

Two-thirds of young children have all parents working outside of the home, and often the options for care are insufficient due to cost, availability and location. Families might be right above the threshold to receive assistance, and the overall cost of child care could demand half of their monthly take home pay.

There is a high turnover with child care and preschool teachers as well, a majority of which are women. According to Groundwork Ohio’s workforce report, the average take home pay for workers is just $11 an hour, and the hours are long, which means they have to find and worry about the cost of care for their own children. If there was support and funding for these educators to make a sustainable wage, it would create more consistency among providers and could help develop measurable standards to be used across the board.

It is no secret that our current system is broken. Funding policies for child care were established to support low-income working parents to help them become self-sufficient. However, parents cannot afford to fund the early childhood education system, just as they do not fund the entire K-12 education system. Thankfully, in our community, the city of Dayton and Montgomery County have invested significant funding to increase access to high-quality early learning. Now we need the state and the federal government to make sure we can provide high-quality education for all children, regardless of race, parent work status, income level, gender, or birthplace.

Investing in early childhood education is investing in our future.

Emily Broughton is the director of marketing and outreach at the non-profit Preschool Promise. The organization works with teachers and students in more than 100 preschools in Montgomery County to ensure that all children are ready for kindergarten. She is also a mother of three.