Delawareans Share Their Vision for Child Care on Advocacy Day

April 14th, 2022

Category: Early Childhood Education

“No one’s income should affect their child’s outcomes. We have to fund child care in Delaware at the cost of care, so that providers don’t have to sacrifice to serve their communities.”

As advocates, lawmakers and community members gathered virtually across the state to rally legislators around Delaware’s youngest learners, comments by Sen. Kyle Evans Gay got to the heart of the occasion.

The event underscored the growing consensus—among local parents and providers, as well as the local and regional business community—that child care is essential infrastructure to our state and community.

Last week brought Early Childhood Education Advocacy Day (hosted by The Delaware Association for the Education of Young children, or deaeyc), as well as results of a new statewide public opinion poll on child care topics.

Advocacy Day brought those topics to the forefront—first, with a deep-dive into the thoughts and opinions of Delawareans; followed by a panel conversation featuring some of Delaware’s top voices in government and education.

The survey, conducted by GBAO Strategies, in partnership with Rodel and several early childhood and community organizations, showed local voters view early childhood education as a critical area in need of state resources. The poll, which captured opinions of a representative sample of 500 registered Delawareans, revealed strong support for increased state investments in early childhood education. Respondents considered early childhood education on an even playing field as other public goods and services provided by the state that benefit society overall, like roads, parks, and K-12 education. Delawareans showed support for increased investments across political and county lines.

With 2022 General Assembly elections and an impending governor race in 2024, respondents across all counties and political affiliations said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for office who supports investments in early care and education.

[Read Delaware Public Media’s coverage: Survey shows Delawareans back increased funding in early childhood education and care]

When asked to rank the importance of state investments in various public amenities—from libraries to transportation—59 percent of Delawareans characterized early childhood education as “very important,” ranking it alongside public amenities such as road maintenance and police.

The subsequent panel discussion (moderated by Rodel’s Madeleine Bayard) saw Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, Sens. Kyle Evans Gay, and Laura Sturgeon, Rep. Rae Moore, Matt Denn, co-chair of the Redding Consortium, and Lauren Hogan, managing director of policy and professional advancement for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) cover topics ranging from early literacy to finance.

Said Sen. Sturgeon: “My constituents are telling me child care is equivalent in cost to a mortgage payment. To pay a mortgage plus child care plus saving for college … the money doesn’t stretch that far.”

Rep. Moore, a middle school teacher who has sponsored legislation this session to pave the way for better compensating early learning professionals, said she knows firsthand what happens when students don’t benefit from quality early learning. “When we don’t invest, what happens at middle school is there are pieces missing. So we need to prioritize this from birth. And we need to make sure we’re prioritizing these professionals: They’re responsible for educating the world.”

Advocates are requesting at least $40 million more in sustained state dollars starting in Fiscal Year 2023, which would help cover basic needs and increased costs for providers. That ask to lawmakers is part of a long-term strategy toward Delawareans’ aspirations for early learning.

As a reminder, Delaware uses a faulty system to fund “Purchase of Care,” the subsidy that covers child care tuition for low-income families. Although that may soon change thanks to new legislation and cost estimator tools. State lawmakers would need to invest 12-86 percent more per child just to pay for the basic legal requirements established by the state–and 282-342 percent more to fund quality, researched-backed care.




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Author:
Madeleine Bayard

mbayard@rodelde.org

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