Managed by The Women’s Foundation, the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative (ECEFC) is a collective of foundation and corporate investors dedicated to supporting systemic approaches that increase quality, capacity and access to early care and education in the Washington region. Learn more about the Collaborative.
Early care and education investments help prepare low-income children ages zero to five for kindergarten, a critical opportunity to increase readiness and close the achievement gap, provide an important work support for low-income working families and support the professional development and advancement of early care and education providers. In this fact sheet, we explore early care and education in our region. Click here to read the full fact sheet.
Editors note:The post below is written by Lauren Hogan, Vice President of Programs and Policy at Grantee Partner National Black Child Development Institute.
“We are so proud of you,” we said to Corliss, on the day she graduated from college. “I am so proud of him,” T.J.’s mom said, on the day her son wrote his first letter. “You should be so proud of yourselves,” Simone said, on the day the early childhood teachers enrolled in their first higher education courses.
Ah, pride. Some might say that it comes before a fall—but at the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), we’re willing to take that risk. From our Parent Empowerment Program, to our Good for Me! curriculum, to our T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood DC project, our work intentionally and actively cultivates pride. We want our children to be bursting with it: proud of who they are, proud of their families, proud of their histories and their cultures. We want to see pride shining in the eyes of our T.E.A.C.H. project recipients—showing in the lifting of their chins and the straightening of their shoulders—as they enroll in their first college class, earn their first credits and graduate with their degrees in early care and education.
Our measures of success are concrete. Over the last four years, with support from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and Washington Area Women’s Foundation, T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood DC has awarded over 400 comprehensive higher education scholarships to early childhood educators working with children birth through age five throughout the District of Columbia. We have conducted over 500 information sessions and site visits. Thirty-five women have earned their associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Importantly, wages have increased by over six percent for those who have been a part of the program for at least one year. But, these are not the only measures that count.
This month, as Americans of all races focus on celebrating the enormous accomplishments of Black leaders throughout our history, we also continue to count the measures of pride. How much more respected do our early childhood educators feel when they are recognized as professionals charged with the critically important role of supporting our youngest learners? How much better do women feel about their capacity to provide for their families, with increases in educational attainment and compensation? How much more confident do our children feel when they successfully master an early skill? How much bigger can they dream when they see their communities honor leaders who look like them?
The District of Columbia, committed to a voluntary, universal prekindergarten program that begins at age 3, is a great example of where this work is taking shape. As the community collectively looks to increase access to high quality early care and education, especially for infants and toddlers across all 8 wards, we know a strong, supported and well-compensated early childhood workforce is critical. T.E.A.C.H. and NBCDI are dedicated to working with The Women’s Foundation and our partners to increase the quantity, quality, affordability, flexibility and cultural relevance of professional development, training and higher education programs.
Together, we have an opportunity to get this work right, to honor our history and to make our children proud.
The Women’s Foundation’s recently announced investments of $630,000 in economic security efforts across the region included seven grants (totaling $325,000) for organizations working to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education. These grants are made through the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, a collective funding effort led by The Women’s Foundation that brings corporate funders and foundations together to invest in systems-level change in the region’s early care and education. You can learn more about the Collaborative and its partners here.
These investments seek to:
- Improve the quality of early care and education for low-income children ages zero to five;
- Expand access to affordable early care and education options;
- Support professional development for early care and education professionals;
- Encourage and strengthen partnerships among stakeholders that support positive changes in the early care and education system.
This year, our early care and education grants continue to support increased advocacy work, an effort that began last year. These investments include Voices for Virginia’s Children, working across Northern Virginia; Prince George’s Child Resource Center, mobilizing in Prince George’s County, Maryland; AppleTree Institute, and a partnership of DC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, focused on the District of Columbia.
The partnership between DC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute is particularly exciting. Together, they are responding to an identified need within DC’s early childhood community: lack of consistent and complete data that captures the cost of quality programs. They will also examine the impending costs facing providers as they adapt to a changing Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), proposed changes in licensing and regulations, the costs of professional development and increased compensation for teachers and the costs of serving children with developmental delays and/or special health care needs. The findings of the study will form the platform for an advocacy agenda, steeped in research data to help advocates rally around a common agenda.
The Women’s Foundation is proud to be one of many investing in early care and education (with more investors recently, as evidence by the White House Summit on Early Learning). Research shows that young children (ages 0 to 5) need a strong social, emotional and intellectual foundation to succeed in school. Children who enter kindergarten without this foundation for learning are more likely to face significant academic challenges than peers who come prepared. Quality early care and education can successfully close this “preparation gap,” while facilitating the economic security and long-term financial success of low-income families; supporting parents in the workforce; and preparing future workers to meet the needs of the regional business community and become active, contributing members of society.
We look forward to supporting our Grantee Partners as we push these goals forward in our region!
Here’s a full list of this year’s early care and education grants.
2015 Grant Investments in Early Care and Education
- AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation
To support AppleTree Institute’s increased communications and advocacy efforts in Washington, DC, aimed at defining quality early education in terms of child outcomes that result in school readiness.
To support the CentroNía Institute in piloting and testing the Unpacking CLASS Tool Kit, an instructional guide that helps early childhood teachers and center directors improve teacher-child quality interaction in the classroom.
- DC Appleseed
To partner with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute to design and produce a study of the District’s child care costs.
- The Literacy Lab
To support the Metro DC Reading Corps Pre-K Program, which embeds literacy tutors in DC and Alexandria’s highest-need early childhood classrooms to provide children with daily literacy interventions that prepare them for kindergarten and future educational success.
- National Black Child Development Institute
To support the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood DC program, which will invest in the professional development and improved quality of teachers serving children from birth through age five in the District of Columbia.
- Prince George’s Child Resource Center
To support Joining Voices, an advocacy project in Prince George’s County that empowers parents and child care providers to articulate the importance of quality child care for family stability, school readiness and economic growth.
- Voices for Virginia’s Children
To promote public policies and investments that ensure all children in Northern Virginia, particularly those who are disadvantaged, enter kindergarten ready to succeed.
Affordable early care and education options are critical for families in our region, and help employers maintain a strong workforce.
As a foundation focused on economic security work, “care” is both a central and pervasive challenge – and an opportunity to influence the trajectory of multiple generations. Child care allows parents to work, or to complete the education and training necessary to find a good job. But quality early care and education is expensive, and not always accessible – in terms of location, or the hours that may or may not match up with a worker’s schedule. Quality also comes at a cost: “In 2012, in 31 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college.” That said, quality early care and education provides critical early learning opportunities, and helps prepare children for kindergarten and beyond. For low-income children in particular, early learning can help close the “readiness gap” that influences educational attainment and economic security in the long-term.
As a women’s foundation, these issues are even more central. Women make up a large percentage of the care workforce (in the child care and early learning space, but also home care and eldercare workers). These professions are low paying. Look at the formal child care workforce alone, and you’ll see that women make up nearly 95% of the workforce. Those jobs are also some of the lowest paying in the US: of the 823 occupations tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 24 professions earn less than child care workers. Looking beyond the formal care workforce, women are also largely informally impacted by the “sandwich generation,” no matter their profession – that is, they are taking on the responsibility of caring for children and aging parents simultaneously. This has a tremendous impact on work/life balance, employment opportunities, and earning potential.
The White House Summit on Working Families featured a panel discussion on caregiving. A few highlights from the conversation…
- On quality early care and education: In decisions about child care, quality is not always the driver of parent choice. Other factors could be cost, convenience, or the comfort of knowing a family member or neighbor. In practice and in policy, we have to find ways to get beyond the amorphous “quality” concept that may or may not resonate with parents.
- On economic security: As Gail Hunt, CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, pointed out, the burden of balancing work and family has a long-term impact on economic security. Seventy-five percent of people with caregiving responsibilities are also working; two-thirds of those people find that they have to make some sort of workplace accommodation to allow them to handle their caregiving responsibilities. The resulting loss in wages, pension, and social security for each of these women: $325,000 over the period that the worker is also a caregiver.
- On the case for employers: David Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons, pointed out the impact of “caregiving stress” on workers. He makes the economic case to employers for workplace flexibility and balancing caregiving responsibilities: caregiving stress cuts into worker productivity, and it impacts the cost of employer-sponsored healthcare. There’s an economic case for employers to be on board with changes in policy that influence this issue.
What was missing from the Summit conversation?
- Robust discussion of improving pay for the caregiving workforce. It was only a question from the audience, at the end of the panel session, that sparked discussion around low pay. In response, Duffy Campbell of the National Women’s Law Center pointed to the need for policy solutions – that the market isn’t working for the workers who are parents/caregivers, or the workers who are caregiving providers. I only wish this was a more central piece of the discussion. Higher pay for this workforce would impact the economic security of this mostly-female workforce; it would also help translate to higher quality early care and education programs in the community.
- Race. I was happy that gender was often discussed at the Summit, but overall, race was left out of the conversation. The same was true in the panel on caregiving – even though, for example, 16% of the child care workforce are African American and 19% are of Hispanic or Latino origin.
- How issues of caregiving begin early. The Women’s Foundation invests in the economic security of women AND girls. When we planned our strategy for investing in girls , we repeatedly heard from providers and advocates the need to recognize the caregiving responsibilities that girls and young women were taking on at home, and the impact of those responsibilities on their education, afterschool options and workforce participation. When reliable care isn’t available for younger siblings, older girls in the family often step in. Solving caregiving challenges has the potential to impact multiple generations at once.
It certainly feels like care is having a moment in the spotlight – from the Summit, to national conversations about Pre-K access and media stories talking about the crisis of care. We can only hope this moment turns into a movement with real solutions for families.
If you’re interested in care issues, check out more on The Women’s Foundation’s Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative. Interested in further reading? Check out the following resources:
- “Listening to Workers: Child Care Challenges in Low-Wage Jobs.”
- The New York Times recently featured a story on a working mom about her struggles with an hourly job and the challenges of consistent and quality child care:
- YouTube video of the White House Summit session on “Caregiving”
Editor’s Note: Fight For Children was a part of the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative for four years before leaving in 2014. Skip McKoy, Fight for Children’s Director of Programmatic Initiatives, shares his reflections in this guest blog post.
At the end of June, Fight For Children will transition off of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative to focus our attention on Joe’s Champs, our early childhood, school-based education program. We developed Joe’s Champs to provide principals, assistant principals, and teachers with professional development and mentorship opportunities focused specifically on students ages 3-4, a period sometimes overlooked by educators but vitally important to a child’s academic and social development. Without the extensive discussions with funders of the early childhood space—including those we met through the Collaborative—we would not be as confident in the success of Joe’s Champs as we are today.
When Fight For Children joined the Collaborative in 2010, we were primarily a grant-making organization. The Collaborative provided us with an opportunity to engage with and learn from other local organizations interested in supporting early childhood development. As Fight For Children shifts from a grant-maker to an organization that designs and runs its own programs, the Collaborative remains a valuable resource for us, other local funders, and early childhood education leaders.
As I reflect back on our four years as a Collaborative member, I am grateful for the many opportunities and lessons learned. Here are a few that stand out to me:
- On the Collaborative, Fight For Children has had the opportunity to join forces with other organizations to leverage our impact on local children. For example, in 2013, as a member of the Collaborative we contributed to the support of ten early childhood education projects, in addition to the projects we support on our own.
- Fight For Children has a small staff that goes into the community throughout the year to research potential organizations with which to partner. Being part of the Collaborative exposed us to projects otherwise unfamiliar to us, given our limited resources.
- As a non-profit focused on children within DC City limits, Fight For Children staff do not readily have opportunities to learn about innovative approaches occurring elsewhere in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region. The Collaborative has facilitated our experiences with early childhood education and development projects outside of DC, which we were then able to reference during our development of Joe’s Champs.
Any of these reasons alone would be a powerful incentive for an early childhood funder to join the Collaborative. But, there is another value-add to being part of the Collaborative: the group of funders* represented at the table are all well-respected and thoughtful. They represent a cross-section of foundations and corporations dedicated to improving early childhood care and education in this region. Having different organizations bring to light the multiple sections of the proverbial early childhood education elephant provides a better sense of the big picture, allowing each of us to be more thoughtful change agents and resulting in an even greater, systemic impact.
*The Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative currently includes: The Boeing Company, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, PNC Foundation, Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and Weissberg Foundation.
Emily Griffey is a Senior Policy Analyst for Voices for Virginia’s Children, a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner.
Much like your typical preschool classroom, activity, opportunity and challenge were in the air in Fairfax the week of April 7-11th. That week happened to be the Week of the Young Child and public hearings on the Fairfax County budget, creating a perfect opportunity to rally early education supporters to demonstrate their impact on school readiness and ask for increased local support. Adding to the opportunities and challenges this year, Fairfax is faced with numerous requests for funding from different stakeholders groups and budget uncertainty. With proposed local budget increases for early learning opportunities on the table – a $714,000 package for additional mentors and professional development for child care providers and an expansion of the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) – advocates were needed to go on the record, along with these many other groups asking for increases, so that early learning would be included in the final budget.
Voices for Virginia’s Children is fortunate to have the opportunity to weigh in on early learning opportunities for Northern VA children through a grant from the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative. While it may seem that Northern VA is one of the more affluent parts of Virginia, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax are home to 6,000 children under age 5 living in poverty (2012 ACS 1 year estimate). And Virginia’s early learning resources lag behind those provided across the metro area.
Calling the campaign #SchoolReadiness4Nova, Voices activated a network of local community leaders, early childhood program providers, and advocates to participate in a letter writing campaign, rally and public testimony to support the funding increase for early learning. (A report by Mission: Readiness, another Grantee Partner of the Collaborative, notes that Fairfax falls short of the potential of VPI.)
Wednesday, April 9th became a Day of Action for Early Learning in Fairfax and kicked off with a rally at one of Fairfax’s 4-star rated early learning centers and a community-based VPI provider, Main Street Child Development Center. Details and video from the rally are available on Voices’ website and Facebook page.
Speakers urged the Board of Supervisors to include the proposed $714,000 investment for school readiness in the final county budget, and to look to the coming years with a plan for significantly expanding VPI participation.
WTOP news radio covered the rally and interviewed Carol Lieske, Director of Main Street Child Development Center and Mary Beth Testa, Voices’ local policy consultant. A clip of the interview ran throughout the afternoon commute that day, and an article was published on the WTOP website.
Advocates proceeded to the public hearing on the budget that afternoon, delivering art from children from Reston and Falls Church to the members of the Board of Supervisors.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is now in the final days of decision-making on the county budget. We think that the flurry of activity during the Week of the Young Child will help to make the case that strengthening school readiness opportunities are essential services in the Fairfax local budget.
You can take action now to show local leaders in Fairfax that early education matters; for more information on #SchoolReadinessforNoVa and how you can participate, visit Voices for Virginia’s Children.