Education, Staff Highlights

VIEWPOINT: Early education programs must work for children and families to move toward equity

New Profit Partner Julie Asher reflects on what needs to happen in order for early childhood education to move into a more equitable future.

By Julie Asher, Partner, ECSO

The pandemic has exposed and elevated to national attention what those of us in the early childhood field have known for decades: the care and education of young children is a fragile patchwork of programs. It should be a comprehensive system that meets the needs of developing young minds.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children found that the pandemic impacted enrollment and attendance in early childhood programs—disproportionately so for historically marginalized populations, with dual-language learners and children of color experiencing more disruptions to their early learning.

Childcare is unaffordable for parents and, at the same time, professionals in the field are significantly underpaid. And now, as the entire country experiences a worker shortage, early childhood programs are strained and facing a hiring crisis like no other time.

The nation is finally paying attention as women leave the workforce in record numbers, often due to their childcare needs. This raising of the national consciousness about the inequities and fault lines in the delivery of early education and childcare also brings a monumental opportunity for our nation to invest far more in a system than ever before.

Importantly, an investment in early childcare and education, as proposed in the Build Back Better Act, must bolster the workforce, create a greater supply of childcare that is accessible for parents, and deliver what we know will best support children’s development.

Research shows that inequities start early in life; comprehensive and high-quality early childhood education can remediate some of these inequities. Our country has an opportunity for bold and innovative public-private partnerships that drive effective use of the unprecedented dollars soon to flow from the federal government. New Profit is working in partnership with the state of Massachusetts on a scalable solution that builds the capacity of programs to deliver quality instruction and care to young children.

To learn more about New Profit’s Early Childhood Support Organization Initiative, click here.