What is the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance?
Helping families pay for early care and education (ECE) is a major problem in the United States. To produce good outcomes for children, ECE programs must attract and retain highly qualified staff, maintain low child:staff ratios and small classes, and help teachers engage in reflective practice. Programs that serve children from very low-income families or who have other risk factors may also need to help children access health, mental health and social services. In short, high-quality early care and education is a multi-faceted enterprise that is expensive – far more than most American families can afford, even those with middle-class incomes. Yet most public funding for ECE in the U.S. is targeted to very poor families, based on rate-setting principles and finance rules that fail to acknowledge the cost of quality, and administered via a hodge-podge of funding ‘silos’ that target specific children (often with multiple services) and leave others (often from the same family) without any affordable service options.
The Alliance for Early Childhood Finance is committed to ensuring that all American children have access to high-quality early care and education services and the supports their families need to thrive as parents and workers. The Alliance was established to address the need for deeper, more comprehensive and sophisticated exploration of ECE finance. We seek to lead a national conversation, and to engage a wide range of stakeholders from government, business, philanthropy, as well as among the provider community and the families they serve.
The Alliance for Early Childhood Finance takes a broad view. We do not believe in a single “best” funding stream or program model. Our view is that ECE can – and should – tap a wide range of funds from many sources and that funds should flow to both programs (via grants or contracts) as well as to families (via portable subsidy in the form of vouchers, certificates or tax benefits.) We do not see these two forms of financial assistance as mutually exclusive; in fact, we propose that they be combined, similar to how higher education, low-income housing, transportation, and other public goods in the U.S. are financed.
This website is designed to serve as a library for our work. You will find downloadable copies of most of the reports, memos, power point presentations, cost modeling spreadsheets and other tools that we have created for government and non-profit agencies, foundations, and others.
Anne Mitchell and Louise Stoney began working together in 1997, when they co-authored the first edition of Financing Child Care in the United States. In 2001, the book was revised, with assistance from Harriet Dichter, and published as Financing Child Care in the United States: An Expanded Catalog of Current Strategies, 2001 Edition. In 2003 – 2006 the Alliance partnered with Smart Start’s National Technical Assistance Center to sponsor an annual, national meeting of the Early Childhood Finance Learning Community, aimed at helped ECE thought leaders explore a range of innovative financing strategies. These meetings were augmented by a series of national conference calls on relevant issues. Summaries, resources, and Issue briefs from these meetings and calls may be found in the Library of this website. Between 2004 and 2007, Mitchell and Stoney regularly produced annotated bibliographies highlighting recent reports and research on ECE finance; these are available in the Library of this website as well.
As the Alliance work matured, Mitchell and Stoney came to understand that ECE finance is fundamentally defined by standards, and began to focus their inquiry on standards-based approaches to financing the ECE system. This ultimately led to a focus on Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, a topic on which the Alliance has developed significant expertise, as well as a range of cost modeling tools.
In 2003, the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance and Cornell University received a three-year research grant from the federal Child Care Bureau to launch the Linking Economic Development and Child Care Project. Led by Mildred Warner, Ph.D. a professor in Cornell’s Department of Community and Regional Planning, and Louise Stoney, this project began to quantify economic returns from the early care and education industry and to spawn deeper work on a range of ECE industry supports, such as shared services. Together, Stoney, Mitchell and Warner wrote a paper, Smarter Reform: Moving Beyond Single-Program Solutions to an Early Care and Education System that explored these issues, as well as the key role that family supports, such as paid family leave, play in ECE policy and finance. The economic development framework led to a host of new policy options, including financing strategies that are administered as tax benefits and use QRIS or other standards as a framework for systemic accountability.
Anne Mitchell first became interested in finance as the director of a child care center trying to raise sufficient revenue to run a good program for children, meet the needs of families and compensate staff fairly. Obviously, a keen interest in public policy followed. In the early 1980s Anne Mitchell with colleagues at Bank Street College and the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women conducted the first national study of prekindergarten policy. She has continued to develop her expertise in pre-kindergarten policy and finance since with reports and papers on national and state policy. With the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), Anne developed several cost estimation tools to help states and communities model the cost of multi-year expansion of prekindergarten policies.
The Alliance for Early Childhood Finance continues to grow and learn. Our goal is to share knowledge, support innovation, and encourage the field of early care and education to explore ways to re-structure, simplify and expand possibilities for financing ECE in the United States.