Early Care & Education: A Business Imperative
Report: Illinois business leaders urge enactment of bipartisan commission’s recommendations to benefit the current and future workforce
The challenges are not new: A majority of Illinois children live in households where all parents work, making high-quality early care and education (ECE) essential for parents, children and our state’s employers. Parents need child care, preschool, birth-to-3 programs and other services in order to work and support their families. Employers benefit when parents have the peace of mind they need to be nproductive, reliable employees. However, too many kids lack access to quality ECE options that would also support their cognitive and socio-emotional development, setting them on a path to success in school and careers — and COVID-19 has exacerbated this situation.
A new report from ReadyNation Illinois notes the state has, and should follow, a road map to improvement that emerged through extensive study, one year ago: The recommendations of a bipartisan, statewide commission, issued nearly one year ago. These ideas from the Illinois Early Childhood Funding Commission represent a solid “business plan” for achieving a much stronger, more equitable early childhood system that’s better-positioned to support the needs of our state’s working parents and their children, as well as employers and our economy. Recommendations call for far greater resources and streamlining of the funding streams and governance structures supporting our birth-to-5 services.
Business stability and productivity depend on a strong early childhood sector: A streamlined, high-quality, accessible system of child care and early education.
Ashley Villarreal, Executive Director, Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce
Poor compensation and benefits for early childhood staff remain an ongoing concern — and at precisely the time the pressures of the pandemic have demonstrated this system to be a “workforce supporting the entire workforce,” necessary to economic recovery. Low pay churns the field with high turnover, which, in turn, undermines not only program quality but access when providers cannot adequately attract and retain skilled, stable workers. Although federal COVID relief funding has helped stabilize the workforce during the pandemic, we need to address the long-standing systemic weaknesses addressed in the commission’s recommendations and set our state on a course toward building a robust early childhood sector — and thus, a more robust economy.