Representative Burgess Owens*
As the son of an educator and a grandfather to sixteen school-aged children, I believe that Early Childhood Education (“ECE”) is essential for many reasons, one of which is that ECE simultaneously provides support for children to learn, for parents to enter the workplace, and for future generations of American workers to grow. I have seen the importance of ECE firsthand as a father and grandfather, as well as in my role as Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.
Raising children is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences in a person’s life. As part of that process, ensuring that children have a solid start is the first step to helping them grow and develop. One of the most important tools at a parent’s disposal is ECE, access to which has significant impact on the foundations that are built for children from birth to fifth grade.1 See Early Childhood Education, CTRS. FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION, https://www.cdc.gov/policy/hst/hi5/earlychildhoodeducation/index.html [https://perma.cc/HZQ3-K5GQ]. The impact of high-quality early education on childhood development and beyond cannot be overstated. Americans of all political stripes, alongside local municipalities and private sector partners, must work together to support a strong child care sector that assists hardworking American families.
The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a significant blow to child care, in-person education, and the American workforce. When most of the economy was shut down, schools and child care centers also shut down.2 See Map: Coronavirus and School Cloures in 2019-2020, EDWEEK (Mar. 6, 2020), https://www.edweek.org/leadership/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures-in-2019-2020/2020/03#:~:text=The%20coronavirus%20pandemic%20forced%20a,6%20to%20May%2015%2C%202020. [https://perma.cc/X9Z8-NFZH]; NAT’L ASS’N FOR THE EDUC. YOUNG CHILDREN, AM I NEXT SACRIFICING TO STAY OPEN, CHILD CARE PROVIDERS FACE A BLEAK FUTURE WITHOUT RELIEF (2020). As the pandemic wore on, many schools remained closed, but child care providers worked to remain open or reopen because they recognized their importance in keeping America going and helping families and children succeed.3See Anya Kamenetz, What Parents Can Learn from Child Care Centers That Stayed Open During Lockdowns, NPR (June 24, 2020, 7:01 AM), https://www.npr.org/2020/06/24/882316641/what-parents-can-learn-from-child-care-centers-that-stayed-open-during-lockdowns [https://perma.cc/FG84-DPRF].
When combating these challenges, we must remember that the beginning years of a child’s life are the building blocks upon which they rely on to create a bright future. Without access to high-quality care, as defined by meeting the specific needs of each child, it is often more difficult for parents to go to work or further their own education. Access to ECE in America will help determine the success of future generations. It is imperative that we think outside the box and focus wholly on children by protecting parental choice, saving taxpayer dollars, and prioritizing the future workforce of America. The time to work together for bipartisan childcare solutions that encompass program alignment across federal, state, and local governments is now. We have no time to waste—parents are waiting, children are growing, and our nation is falling behind as a leader in education.