HIGH-QUALITY EARLY LEARNING is formal and informal education delivered by qualified and fairly compensated professionals in home, center, and school settings. Children’s critical early years are not the time to take shortcuts, but such high-quality programs can consume 20 percent or more of a family’s annual income. This isn’t sustainable.
Early childhood education: challenges and opportunities in Kansas.
EARLY LEARNING IS ESSENTIAL:
For the kids
Our children are the future, and the decisions we make today shape their entire lives. To give Kansas kids the best chance at a bright future, we must invest in high-quality child care and education programs to set them on the right path starting at birth.
For the parents
Today, most households require two incomes, meaning that someone outside of the nuclear family has to care for the children. For the sake of the family, parents need to know that they have a safe, healthy, and high-quality spaces for their children to play, learn, and grow.
For the providers
Whether they work in a center, a school, or a home-based care facility, child care providers aren’t babysitters – they’re brain-builders. The majority of brain development occurs in the first five years of a person’s life, and the professionals that look after children during this critical period should get the respect and compensation they deserve.
For the economy
Child care is essential for our workforce. Business and economic development professionals agree: Without access to child care, our economy can’t recover, let alone flourish. Studies also show that children in high-quality care settings grow into adults with more education and higher incomes.
- In Kansas, a family of three making more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or $40,182 a year, wouldn't qualify for child care assistance. However, the average annual cost of care for one child in the Topeka metro is $8,442, or roughly 20 percent of the annual income of that family.
Kansas has an early education crisis. In many parts of the state, families lack access to child care; and where it is available, it is unaffordable to most.
- The child care workforce is aging, and due to low wages it is difficult to recruit new people into the field. Yet, the cost of child care is so high that providers are reluctant to pass along costs to the client families.
STATE OFFICIALS HAVE ABUNDANT OPPORTUNITIES to pursue legislation and regulations for families to find, afford, and benefit from early education. Kansas must increase high-quality, early learning opportunities for children from birth to 5.