Blog | Event | December 3, 2020

Business Leaders, Children’s Advocates, and Others convene for ECIC Annual Meeting.

ReadyNation Mississippi’s Early Childhood Investment Council discusses Early Childhood Programs and the lasting benefit of high-quality early learning.

Tonya Ware, Nancy S. Fishman

As the world continues to fight the pandemic, Mississippi’s Early Childhood Investment Council (ECIC) is focused on developing a skilled workforce in the state by promoting solutions that prepare children to succeed in education, work, and life. Last week, the council met to celebrate the creation of the ECIC and to discuss their work and how to support early childhood programs in the state.

Early childhood programs play a crucial role in making sure our economy is strong and our communities are successful. These programs are invaluable to working parents, who are crucial members of our workforce. They need these programs to support their families, while their children need them to grow developmentally and socio-emotionally. Employers need these programs as well. These supports help ensure that working parents are focused, productive, and successful.

The event kicked off with opening remarks by Tonya Ware, Project Director of ReadyNation MS. Council for a Strong America’s President & CEO Barry Ford addressed the council next, explaining the ECIC’s overarching goals. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work on increasing awareness, increase child care options, and influence decision-makers into making appropriate systemic policy decisions and investments in children,” he said. Introductions by Todd M. Klunk, Program Officer, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and Nancy Fishman Co-Global Director of ReadyNation followed, welcoming the council and offering its commitment to our goals.

Rachel Canter, Executive Director for Mississippi First, shared her experience working on expanding Mississippi’s early learning services and funding. “Our work is extremely impactful, helping kids and their families,” she explained. She also expressed how business leaders can help. “February and March will be the time for business leaders to use their voice to support early childhood programs,” she explained to the group.

Research shows that high-quality early childhood education benefits the current workforce and bolsters academic outcomes and a future workforce. To offer a scientific explanation for this, ReadyNation Brain Science Speakers Bureau member Dr. Jay Berkelhamer MD, Senior Physician Advisor to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, built a case for the many high returns society reaps when it invests in children ages 0 to 5 with accessibility to a high-quality early learning education. “The roots of a successful life, economic productivity, lifelong health, responsible citizenship, education attainment, and more starts with healthy childhood development,” Dr. Berkelhamer explained.

Holly Spivey, Head Start Collaboration Director & Education Policy Advisor also discussed Mississippi’s work in early childhood and how business leaders can support the governor’s efforts. “In the almost 12 years I’ve worked in this office, and of all the areas I’ve traveled to, I’ve seen time and time again that the most successful communities are the ones everyone is involved at the local level and sees the value of early childhood,” she said.

Mississippi is making important strides in early childhood education. State-funded programs garner a strong child care rating and are providing the tools to ensure our youngest children have access to programs designed to help them grow into well-rounded and productive adults. High-quality, affordable, and accessible early childhood programs are key to making Mississippi strong and prosperous.


Tonya Ware

ReadyNation Project Director, Mississippi

Nancy S. Fishman

Senior Advisor

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