Reimagining Early Care and Education: A New American Vision

May 10, 2021

The way the U.S. funds and delivers early care and education does not meet the needs of most children, families, and educators. The crises of 2020 have brought a bright light to the fragility, inadequacies, and inequities of the existing policies and systems.

But these crises of 2020 did not cause the failures of our systems. Our country’s systems have not worked well for most children, families, and educators for far too long. But in the middle of a devastating pandemic, economic recession, persistent racial injustice, and violent political extremism, early care and education is especially critical. We must take advantage of this moment — the national attention and the sense of urgency — to reimagine funding, access, delivery, and quality of early care and education, and the systems that support child and family well-being.

Rescue and stabilization are vitally important, but we know they are not nearly enough. On March 30, New America’s Early & Elementary Education Policy team held an event to reimagine early care and education systems and put forward bold changes needed to realize a new vision. The event focused on reimagining in two key areas:

  1. Equity and the whole child; and
  2. Systems alignment that supports children and families— vertically to elementary and secondary education and horizontally across the systems that are meant to strengthen family well-being.

On this page, you will find the full event recording, clips of key discussions from the event, and the voices of researchers, advocates, celebrities, and government officials on why reimagining early care and education is important, and resources. If you would like to be engaged in this ongoing conversation and work, please sign up for our newsletter.

What did other experts have to say?

"The coronavirus relief packages have really highlighted where federal policy can make significant differences. It should help us create a universal system for families."

Danielle Ewen

Principal, EducationCounsel

"Accessible care is not just this thing for people who are having trouble making ends meets, this is a part of our basic social fabric."

Elliot Haspel

Program Officer, Education Policy & Research, Robins Foundation

"Everybody in corporate America who has employees needs to recognize how people’s lives are benefited by early education and having that in the economy."

Brandy Lawrence

Sr. Director, Birth-3 Policy, Communication and Partnerships at Bank Street College of Education

"More than half of our students are students of color. If our system isn’t working for them, it’s not working, period."

Shantel Meek

Founding Director, Children's Equity Project, Arizona State University

"We cannot call child care essential for the economy and have 37% of educators in Massachusetts eligible for public assistance."

Amy O'Leary

Director of Early Education for All, Strategies for Children

"Education is not just in the brick and mortar. It occurs outside the school with communities and families."

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek

Professor, Temple University

"As we become more focused on ending persistent racial injustice, schools have to examine their roles in disrupting disparities in how children of color are disciplined."

Helene Gayle

President & CEO, The Chicago Community Trust

"We need to commit to data collections about what children and families have access to. Data allows us to assess the impact and outcomes of reforms, investments, and policies."

Lea J.E. Austin

Director, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, UC Berkeley

"We have an increased attention that child care is part of our national infrastructure. It’s no longer something 'nice to have' but something we must have as a nation."

Sara Slaughter

Executive Director, W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation