ECE Policy Matters: Join the Conversation

Welcome to ECE Policy Matters! Your home for ongoing—and provocative—conversation about critical issues in early care and education policy.

If you’re drifting through the blogosphere, you know that education blogs are multiplying, including a number of first-rate blogs dedicated to early care and education (see my list of favorites in the right sidebar). But the voices of ECE professionals—that’s you out there in pre-K classrooms, Early Head Start, Early Intervention, community-based child care centers, infant mental health services, family child care homes, elementary schools—are rare, and much too quiet.

Education Sector’s arrived in my inbox on a recent summer morning. “Let’s hear it for the teachers!” was the subject line, introducing four new teacher bloggers. Great, I thought. Then I scrolled down to meet them, and only one, Tom White, from Seattle (), who’s taught third grade for 26 years—bless him—could be considered a bona fide member of the early childhood workforce. And he’s at the very end of the developmental spectrum, by the way, which, according to the , starts at birth and extends until age 8.

Even as our Secretary of Education and President talk about reforming education “from cradle to career,” and unprecedented amounts of money are pumped into early care and education (R.I.P., Early Learning Challenge Fund, about which more later), we are still straggling along, rushing to catch up to “big brother” K-12 (or 16) in spite of the fact that:

  • Children learn more in the first five years of life than any other time in their lives.
  • High-quality ECE produces children more ready for school, more likely to be academically successful, less likely to drop out of high school, and, channeling veteran children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman (), more likely to end up at Yale than in jail.

Last month, I talked to a group of dynamic ECE professionals about “Bridging Professional Practice and Policy” at the Bank Street Infancy Institute in NYC. When we got to the slide in my PowerPoint about compensation for ECE professionals, their eyes popped out of their heads. How is it that a workforce that helps meld young minds is paid less than—with all due respect—bellhops and tree trimmers?

We need to be noisier—and clearer—about the stakes. And significantly more involved in shaping the policies that determine the trajectories for children and families.

Start today. Come join the conversation!

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3 comments to ECE Policy Matters: Join the Conversation

  • Thank you for this post! This is a questions I have been pondering since the early 80s- how do we get more ECE professionals to speak up? And while I do not have easy answers, I think one of the best things we can do is to talk about wages, and how that relates to quality which we all want to be high. I, also, think encouraging dialogue about how tuition rates that don’t necessary allow for paying more than poverty level wages impacts the level of quality in programs, and who is really benefiting from low tuition. It often feels like sacrilege to bring that up, but we cannot move forward as a field until we address how we charge for the services we provide and what it buys our programs.

    We, also, need to encourage all ECE professionals to speak up for whatever they are feeling strongly about. As a Quality Improvement coach, I often encourage the programs I work with to call the appropriate agency whenever they express a concern about how a new regulation or method of funding was impacting them, and I do this whether or not I agree with them. I wanted them to know that they have a voice that needs to be heard. Not many followed through, but at least, they were getting the message that they matter which they do not often hear from the parents or the powers that be!

  • Nice to discover you. I’m in, and I’ll keep talking. (Talking at ECE Summit at Penn state on the 22nd)
    One thing we have going for us is that is an Emperor-has-no-clothes type challenge. All parents know deep down that the ball to keep our eye on is loving learning, good at working with others, comfortable in their own skin. They tell me over and over again.
    School it’s own special place in our brains and makes parents afraid.

  • Susan Ochshorn

    Welcome, Rick! But I fear that the challenge is greater than that of the emperor with no clothes. The confluence of parental anxieties, education reform trends, and limited time for advocacy makes public will-building really tough.

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