And while there is tremendous support for this issue on both sides, far too many families in our nation are unable to afford the costs. Skills build upon skills and the further children fall behind, the harder it is for them to ever catch up.
In fact, a recent survey conducted by Care.com found that one-third of American families spend 20% of their income on child care. What’s more, five out of six children eligible for federal child care assistance do not receive it, primarily due to lack of funding.
Fortunately, United Ways, partners and advocates are banding together to fight for early care and education at the local and state level in communities across the U.S.
In Minneapolis, Greater Twin Cities United Way provides critical leadership and resources to lead MinneMinds, a bipartisan coalition of more than 100 members that focuses on increasing access to quality early childhood care and education for Minnesota’s most vulnerable children from birth to age five. This past legislative session, the Minnesota Legislature approved $100 million of new funding for early childhood education. Prior to this new funding, MinneMinds successfully advocated for $140 million of ongoing funding for early learning scholarships every year to support nearly 10,000 children who are most at risk in Minnesota.
In Indianapolis, United Way of Central Indiana is fighting for more than 27,000 low-income children to receive the education they need to start – and stay – on track. Together with their pre-K coalition, the United Way advocated for Governor Eric J. Holcomb to support legislation to expand the On-My-Way Pre-K program. As a result, the program expanded from five to twenty counties and funding increased by $10 million annually in 2017.
In Des Moines, United Way of Central Iowa is advocating for more funding flexibility for low-income preschoolers. With their community partners, they successfully passed legislation that allows preschools to use government funding for instructional activities and school snacks – items that many teachers were funding out-of-pocket.
In Utah, United Way of Salt Lake is fighting for state funding for preschool and support for full day kindergarten. After many years of showing how early childhood education has long term benefits for children, communities and the economy, they were able to pass the Utah School Readiness Initiative, infusing $33 million into preschool in Utah over the next three years.
Across the nation, United Ways are leading and supporting multi-year, multi-strategy campaigns to increase awareness of the importance of high-quality child care and preschool across the country.
This month, lawmakers will return to their home districts during the congressional recess to meet with their constituents and to stay connected with their districts.
Early childhood advocates can use this recess to remind their representatives the importance of high-quality and affordable child care.