Why the Data is Important
Why It Is Important?
Child care educates our youngest children at a time when their brains are developing at their most rapid pace. Research shows that these early years lay the foundation for all future development and learning, preparing children for success in school and beyond. When children receive quality child care, they enter school prepared to be successful. When they do not, they enter school already behind, and often fall further and further behind.
Child care is important to our children, our families, and our communities. Without child care, parents cannot work and businesses cannot thrive. More importantly, investments in early education is the most cost effective way to prevent problems in education, health, social and economic productivity later in life according to Noble Laureate Dr. James Heckman. Heckman estimates the return on investment in early education to be 14% - almost double the return on stock equity investment.
What Is the Problem?
A study conducted by the University of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute found that 67% of the child care centers in Georgia provide low quality child care -- child care that does not prepare children for success in school and may put their health and safety at risk. Only 4% of programs in Georgia are nationally accredited, meeting the highest standards in child care quality. The truth is; quality costs. It costs more to have smaller group sizes and more teachers per child, to hire better trained and more highly qualified teachers, and to provide a stimulating learning environment and curriculum. Quality child care would cost more than most working parents in Georgia could pay.
Parents in Georgia struggle to afford child care and often compromise quality for affordability. A family with both parents working full-time at minimum wage earns just $29,000 a year. Only one county in Georgia (Wheeler) has an average cost of care that would allow this family to spend only 10% of their income on child care.
Child care is a market based system that responds to market demand. The market demands affordability.
What children need is quality.
Offering Some Solutions
More than 20 states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee, have developed solutions using market-based incentives to help child care businesses offset the costs of providing quality child care. The incentives range from higher rates of child care subsidy reimbursements for higher quality programs, to tax credits for child care businesses that provide quality care and parents who choose quality care. These states are also creating a market demand for quality and helping parents to determine whether they are purchasing a lower quality “one star” child care program, or a higher quality “four star” child care program. States are making these investments because they know that they can pay now, setting the stage for children to be successful, or pay more later, picking up the pieces when they are not.
Georgia gained national recognition for developing the first publicly-funded Pre-K program for four-year olds in 1995. A number of states have followed suit. Georgia could be on the forefront again with a shared vision of all children birth through five benefitting from high quality child care. What it will require is a partnership of the public and private sectors – with strong leadership from the business and philanthropic community, along with government. Let us work together to make quality early education for all of Georgia’s children a reality. We know it is the right thing for children. The return on investment is clear. Please engage with Quality Care for Children so that Georgia’s children receive what they need to be successful in school and in life.