An Unprecedented Public Investment in Children, Families, and the Early Childhood Education Workforce

Last week, the White House announced the American Families Plan (AFP), a proposal focusing on investing in child care and early education, K-12 education, higher education, and tax policy. It represents the most significant, broad-based federal investment in education and families since the New Deal.

As a grantmaker that supports organizations that advocate for long-term, big structural changes that improve children’s educational outcomes––including supporting their families and the early childhood workforce writ large––we recognize the historic nature of the AFP, as well as the tireless work of our grantee partners that has led to this moment.

The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic recession hit the United States hard, revealing to the American public what many working families with young children and those of us in the ECE field have known for years: equitable access to high-quality early childhood education is not only important for the learning and development of young children, but it is also essential infrastructure for our economy.

To that end, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the role of our key federal policy advocacy, grassroots organizing, and applied policy research grantees who have been pushing unapologetically for equitable access to high-quality early learning and paid family leave amidst COVID-19 and for many years prior. Their work laid the foundation for where we are today in three principal, interrelated ways:

  1. Federal advocates worked in coalition with organizing groups to put forth the ideas on child care and paid family leave that were reflected in the AFP. In addition to advocacy, they have also begun the long-term work of building an organized base of support among parents, the workforce, and the public at large.
  2. Think tanks advanced evidence-based policy recommendations that were developed in concert with other researchers and advocacy and organizing groups.
  3. Applied policy research groups analyzed the implementation of early childhood-focused policies in real time, and articulated the impacts of those policies on the ECE workforce and children’s access to high-quality ECE programs in U.S. states, territories, and Tribal Nations. Advocates and think tanks used this research to inform their policy advocates and educate policymakers.

The early childhood education field has been severely neglected and under-invested in as a matter of policy in this country. The AFP, if enacted, is an important first step in rectifying the longstanding structural inequalities that families and the ECE workforce have faced as a result of this disinvestment.

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