With the recent massive influx of federal spending on early learning and care, we face a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an early learning and care system that prioritizes families and supports them when they need it most: during a child’s critical first five years.
Washington, D.C. has issued a clarion call to boldly rethink and improve our early learning and care programs. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) represents one of the most significant investments in young children in decades, which will funnel over $40 billion to states for early learning. States and communities are already beginning to plan for how to spend these dollars and are looking for guidance and expertise from the early childhood field. The American Families Plan dreams even bigger, proposing $450 billion in early childhood care and education funding that would provide quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in our nation, support quality child care, expand the Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and ensure twelve weeks of paid family leave.
Rising to this unprecedented opportunity will require coordinated, coherent and collaborative action. The capacity needed to get this moment right is more than any one organization can do alone, and it’s on all of us to get it right for our youngest learners.
It’s on state advocates and system leaders to successfully plan for and spend this unprecedented federal investment in early childhood systems. To dream big and lay a foundation for a more equitable early childhood system, particularly for families of color, all while facing quick timelines and no promise that this level of federal funding will continue. This is a bipartisan issue, and we’re already supporting both Democratic and Republican governors in 17 states to effectively use the funds to repair and redesign early childhood systems and supports to be more equitable, to increase access for families of color, to reach more children with disabilities and to target funding to build capacity of under-resourced communities.
It’s on philanthropic institutions and private support to continue funding the innovative quality programs and systems at the community level, so they can be scaled with public funding. Quality early learning and care is a proven solution to closing the opportunity gap and breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty, but only if it is quality. More than ever, private support behind public investments will be essential to ensuring every child has access to equitable learning experiences needed to reach their full potential.
This is our moment. Together, we can transform our early childhood system so that every parent has access to quality programs and services that meet their unique needs. We can create a nation where every option available for families provides the supportive environment, ambitious instruction, effective leaders, collaborate teachers and involved families we know are essential to transforming the lives of children. We’re ready to answer this call and hope you will join us.