The 2015 National Research Council and Institute of Medicine’s seminal report, “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation” made clear what adults working with young learners need to know and be able to do, and it put forward recommendations for policy and system changes to ensure that more adults with the right knowledge and competencies are working in early care and education programs. This volume has been valuable for those working to improve children’s early experiences and has spurred work in several states to make the transformations needed.
Real transformation, of course, takes investment and a key question beyond the scope of the 2015 study was how to fund those programs with a well-qualified, supported, and compensated workforce while also ensuring they are accessible and affordable to families. This unanswered question may leave some feeling as though they are trying to push a boulder up a steep hill.
But help is on the way. In December a new National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study launched and a committee began work to consider the financing question and make recommendations. Specifically the committee is exploring the following six questions:
1. In most states the cost of a high quality early learning program exceeds the cost of college tuition, making it unaffordable for most lower income families. What changes need to be made to the funding structure of the early care and education system in order to ensure sufficient funds are available to support a quality of care and early learning that is consistent with the science of child development?Fortunately there are several smart thinkers tackling these questions. You can find out more about them and the study here. And if you are interested in weighing in, be sure to attend the upcoming public session on May 17 in Washington, D.C.
2. What are the implications for families of varying levels of costs relative to income, and how can a reasonable share for families be determined?
3. What funding mechanisms at the federal, state and local levels have been effective at creating a strong element of support for the workforce (i.e., higher education; ongoing professional learning system; compensation degree/credential attainment)?
4. What promising funding mechanisms at the federal, state, and local levels warrant further examination through a systematic approach to implementing and evaluating at scale?
5. What other workforce development considerations at the national, state, and local level affect the effective implementation of these funding mechanisms?
6. What frameworks or tools can support national, state, and local systems to develop funding mechanisms that are most likely to be effective in their contexts?