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What’s the best way to invest in early education and care?

State advocates have come up with nine guiding principles for policy leaders.

These policies are “designed to help create one mixed delivery system of care that is equitable and inclusive of all providers including family child care, public and private child care centers, Head Start, and public schools,” The Alliance for Early Success explains on its website where the nine principles are listed.

These principles also:

• focus on family choice and preferences

• ensure access to quality programs for all families

• create supply that can meet demand, and

• respond to communities’ needs and values

The nine principles are:

make child care affordable
Families living at or below the poverty level would not have to pay a fee for child care. And no family would pay more than 7 percent of their income.

fund the real cost of care
Child care providers should receive government funding that is based on the actual, full costs of providing high-quality care.

enact reforms and policies that are equitable
Equitable reforms and policies should benefit all families and invest additional resources in “communities that have been traditionally underserved.”

create professional pathways for child care providers
Higher education and certification programs should be “available to all providers, in a variety of settings and languages.” These and other career pathways should clearly articulate “competencies and expectations” and include financial and other kinds of support.

 • pay livable wages and provide benefits
Child care providers should be paid a livable wage that is comparable to the compensation of educators with similar qualifications, experience, and responsibilities, regardless of the setting or the age of the children being served. Benefits should include health insurance, paid leave, and retirement investment plans.

promote accessibility in all communities
As policymakers design and expand their child care systems, they can increase the supply of child care by expanding existing programs, investing in new facilities, and creating grants and loans for family child care providers so they can offer more home-based care. Policymakers can also invest public funds in innovations such as public-private partnerships.

promote quality
Systems should be created to help providers meet quality standards, including requirements for class sizes, student/teacher ratios, teacher credentials, and indoor and outdoor play spaces as well as other culturally aware, evidence-based standards

base eligibility for child care assistance solely on family income
“All families at or below 150 percent of State Median Income” should be “eligible for help paying for child care. Families at higher incomes can receive tax credits or other supports.”

simplify access to child care assistance
States should “create simple access to assistance, including application processes that are easy to understand and navigate.”

Weaving these principles together would create child care systems that meet all families’ needs.

The next step?

“For these principles to become reality,” the alliance says, “Congress and state legislatures will have to see child care as a public good that requires adequate public financing to support a comprehensive system of education and care that meets the needs not just of children, families, and providers, but also of the communities in which they live.”

Please take time to consider these principles and how they can be used in your work and your advocacy. Decide which principles need the most attention in your community and share this with local policymakers.

Now that the country is trying to rebuild child care, your input is invaluable.