Spotlight Exclusives

The Educational and Economic Importance of Effective Childcare

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

Education has long been seen as “the great equalizer,” aimed at providing children from all backgrounds the knowledge and skills they need to be productive members of the American workforce. However, a growing shortage of skilled workers to fill jobs, along with significant disparities in educational achievement between lower- and higher- income students, suggest that our nation’s K-12 system has fallen short of that aspiration – and needs renewed investment from the public and private sectors.

On Wednesday, Dr. Katharine B. Stevens of the American Enterprise Institute, along with the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, released Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow: The Business Case for High-Quality Child Care,  a report on the need for quality childcare. In her opening remarks, Cheryl A. Oldham, senior vice president of the USCC Foundation, explained that quality early childhood education can “offer long-term educational, social, and economic benefits that break the cycle of poverty.”

In describing her report, Stevens explained why K-12 schools have proven unable to compensate for the disadvantages that children in low-income families may face before kindergarten. “Developmental gaps between lower- and higher- income children actually emerge far earlier in life than has been previously understood,” she said. According to Stevens, the problem with the current approach to education is its failure to account for the lasting impact of early childhood – the most critical period of human development.

As detailed in the report, almost two-thirds of mothers in the United States with children under five years old are employed and 12 million young children are in non-parental, paid childcare, making childcare play an “unprecedented, critical role in our country’s economic growth and productivity.” As such, for families in which both parents must work outside the home, a lack of affordable childcare inevitably puts both them and their children at a disadvantage. Stevens argued that “quality child care is a powerful two-generational approach that simultaneously supports working parents and ensures that young children have the chance to develop well.”

In the following panel discussion moderated by Oldham, Phil Acord of the Chambliss Center for Children, Jan Kruchoski of CliftonLarsonAllen and Vice Chair of the Chamber of Commerce Education, Employment, and Training Committee, and Stevens pointed to Minnesota’s Early Learning Scholarship Program to highlight why businesses should invest in early childhood education. The “Minnesota model” is a market-based, choice-driven model that was created to address the state’s growing achievement gap, explained Kruchoski. Privately funded, the program provides scholarships to low-income families to pay for quality childcare from state-approved providers. In Minnesota, providers only become state-approved if they participate in Parent Aware, a system that rates the quality of early education providers, which in turn, aims to promote competition by incentivizing providers to perform better.

“The private sector understood the principles of a market-based system to give low-income little kids a shot, and they put dollars there,” said Stevens. “The business community and conservatives in Minnesota understand that these pieces have to go together.”






« Back to Spotlight Exclusives