ECE policy is fundamentally about building systems. Proposals to improve early care and education (ECE) are often based on narrow conceptions of the value, benefits, and appropriate structure of services. The result is an increasing number of initiatives that focus only on a single aspect of the system (e.g., preschool for poor children, literacy development curricula) and assume this limited intervention can produce large results. The Alliance believes that to realize ECE’s potential to benefit children, families, and the nation’s economy, the focus of reform proposals must broaden to create systems, supported with adequate public investment, that recognize our children’s full worth and that reflect the value of family caregiving by supporting non-market as well as market care.
While our goal is system-building, the Alliance has published papers on various aspects of the ECE system, such as Prekindergarten policy, family leave, and economic development. This work, summarized below, is included in this section of the website.
Policy Framework for ECE
The recession economy is taking its toll on ECE programs and policies throughout the United States. As thought leaders and consultants, we have become deeply concerned about how policy makers, and the ECE community as a whole, are responding to budget cuts. Without a very clearly defined and focused agenda we fear that the gains we have made over the past 20 years could be lost. To address this concern, in 2011 we asked a small group of individuals to help us think more clearly about how to proceed. This policy framework represents our collaborative thinking.
Anne Mitchell has been tracking prekindergarten policy trends since the early 1980s; her last national report was in 2001. Since 2002, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has become the go-to place for prekindergarten policy and produces useful annual reports. However, the Alliance site maintains historical documentation of prekindergarten policy across the states, and particularly in New York, that precedes the establishment of NIEER. For a discussion of prekindergarten and kindergarten policy as a means to build the ECE system see The Role of States And The Federal Government In Promoting Prekindergarten and Kindergarten which was written by Anne Mitchell in April 2001.
ECE policy isn’t just about supporting market-based services. Parents are also caregivers, and frequently forgo significant sums in current and future income in order to do so. Enabling family leave is therefore a key part of the ECE finance. You will find some resources on family leave on this website. The National Partnership for Women and Families is a good source of current information about paid family leave issues and campaigns.
Early care and education has deep links to economic development. In addition to the economic returns that result from nurturing young minds – our future citizens and wage-earners — early care and education is being recognized as an important economic sector in its own right. ECE businesses create jobs, purchase goods and support local economies. ECE businesses also facilitate parents’ employment.
In 2003 the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance partnered with Cornell University and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research to sponsor the Linking Economic Development and Child Care Research Project. In 2015 this work was updated by the Committee on Economic Development, which recently launched a webpage that includes state fact sheets and talking points.