If you spend much time at Voices for Children you will hear us talk a lot about early childhood — those critical years from 0 to 8. Research has shown that investments in these years pay dividends in the future by helping to create more productive and successful adults. In recent years, a growing number of diverse groups have started to take a greater interest in early childhood.
For us, it’s not “spend more money.” Rather, it’s “spend more money in the right places.” Over time, smart investments based on research and best practices pay off with less spending on costlier services down the line. When it comes to kids, the bottom line is that they are simply more malleable when they are younger, so the things you do — or don’t do — in those years matters more.
In spite of growing evidence about and interest in early childhood, funding for our state’s child care subsidy program is on the chopping block. Again. The recent budget request from HHS includes a proposal to freeze provider payments in the child care subsidy program at the 50th percentile of current market rates. The legislature did the same thing during the previous budget cycle, and rates were slated to return to previous funding levels in 2014. We know that providing quality care costs more and keeping provider payments low hinders the ability of providers to provide higher quality care.
At a time when mounting evidence and a growing number of diverse stakeholders are saying that we need to invest more in early childhood, it makes little sense to keep dialing back the investments we are making. With the cuts that happened to this program in 2002, we’ve essentially seen a lost decade of potential progress on early childhood. Our kids can’t afford to wait another decade for adults to start paying attention to the mounting evidence on investing in early childhood.
We hope that the legislature will not only reject these cuts, but also start thinking about how to improve our public early childhood programs in the future.