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Time for a Serious Conversation on Early Care and Learning

Join thread on October 5: A Summit on the Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning

SBeglundBy Stephanie Berglund, CEO of thread

You are invited to join thread, Alaska’s child care resource and referral network, for a conversation about how the early care and learning industry strengthens Alaska’s workforce, both today and in the future. Stop by for breakfast or lunch only, or stay all day and hear from national speakers during Investing in Alaska’s Workforce: A Summit on the Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 5, at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown.

How does early care and learning strengthen our workforce? Businesses and organizations rely on child care to meet the needs of their employees each day in order to maintain a quality workforce. At the same time, it lays the human capital foundation for tomorrow’s workforce. And, having a strong workforce is critical to having a strong economy.

Plus, early care and learning invest­ments are a major component of overall education reform and, as economists will tell you, yield a high rate of return. Having a high-quality early learning program instills a strong founda­tion of cognitive and social skills in children, making them more likely to graduate high school, refrain from criminal activities, attend col­lege, contribute to the workforce, and achieve higher earnings.

During breakfast at the summit, you’ll hear from Kyle E. Yasuda, MD, FAAP. Dr. Yasuda is the medical officer for children and families at Public Health Seattle King County and provides pediatric consultation for the county’s initiative, Best Starts for Kids, a prevention and early intervention initiative for children and youth 0 – 24 years of age. He is a clinical professor in general pediatrics at the University of Washington and is serving his second term on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) board of directors and is the chairperson of District VIII, a region consisting of 12 western states – including Alaska – and two provinces. In 2012, U.S. News and World Report named him as a top doctor. Dr. Yasuda has been able to utilize his experiences in primary care practice, academics, government, health policy, advocacy, and nonprofit organizations to actively advocate for the needs of children and families.

The luncheon keynote features Randy Laszewski, an audit partner in KPMG’s National Professional Practice Group in New York. KPMG supports youth and education and sustaining communities through workforce readiness. Through their corporate citizenship programs, KPMG is focused on serving children at every stage of their academic career starting at prekindergarten. Mr. Laszewski, an outspoken early childhood advocate, started his career in Atlanta, Georgia in 1981. For more than 35 years he has provided a full range of audit services to a variety of clients, primarily in the banking industry. Mr. Laszewski currently serves on KPMG’s regional and community banking practice national leadership team.

You will also hear from Nancy Fishman, the deputy director of ReadyNation, an international business membership organization that leverages the experience, influence, and expertise of more than 1,800 business executives to promote public policies and programs that build a stronger workforce and economy. Since 2006, ReadyNation members have made a bottom-line case for effective, bipartisan investments in children as the future workforce that will drive success in the global marketplace. Prior to joining ReadyNation, Ms. Fishman was the state director of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission. The Commission, comprised of 75 senior-level business executives across the commonwealth, supports public investment in high-quality early care and education as a workforce and economic development strategy. Previously, Ms. Fishman was the director of Success By 6, the early childhood initiative of the United Way of Carlisle and Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

She will be presenting the findings of the ReadyNation Report: Social-Emotional Skills in Early Childhood Support Workforce Success. In this national report, they examine how character skills formed in early childhood contribute to building a strong workforce with the necessary social-emotional skills for the 21st century economy.

You will also hear from business and government leaders in Alaska on how they are investing in early childhood locally. Plus, the day will be filled with group activities and open discussion.

Because of what’s at stake for both Alaska children and our society at large, it is time to have a serious conversation about where Alaska is compared to the rest of the country and where it’s going when it comes to investing in early care and learning. Register today to join the conversation on October 5.

Learn more and register for the summit on the thread website or by calling 907.265.3100.

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Economic Benefits of Early Care and Learning

By Stephanie Berglund

Like many of us who support early childhood, thread understands that early care and learning is a critical part of Alaska’s infrastructure, supporting families and allowing them the choice of maintaining employment while raising a family.

jim calvin presenting report (2)

Jim Calvin presenting the 2015 Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning Report.

Now, a new report released in October 2015, 2015 Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning Report by the McDowell Group, reveals that the early care and learning sector has an even greater impact on Alaska’s economy than we suspected — to the tune of half a billion dollars.

According to the report, the early care and learning sector accounts for $512 million in economic activity statewide. This economic activity boasts benefits for working families and employers now, and for our state’s young children exponentially for many years to come.

The report, prepared for the Alaska Early Childhood Coordinating Council (AECCC) of which thread is a member, highlights some eye-opening data that exposes the crucial role early care and learning plays in Alaska’s economy. For instance:

  • Nearly one in six workers — or 15 percent of Alaska’s workforce — depend on early care and learning services in order to go to work each day.
  • Wages attributed to these workers are estimated to be over $2 billion.

Many Alaskans are familiar with the need to find affordable and quality child care, yet most are unaware that licensed/regulated care is in short supply. Across the state there are only enough spaces for half of the children who need care. This number is much higher in some communities and, across the state, the demand continues to grow. In a parent survey conducted as part of the report, 46 percent of parents with children under 6 years of age report difficulty finding care.

On top of the shortage in access to quality early care and learning, tuition is expensive for families and they are fronting the majority of the cost. The report finds that families are contributing $223 million, or 65 percent, of all funding spent on early care and education ($343 million) in Alaska.

Early care and learning services are often the family’s highest monthly expense – in some cases even higher than mortgage/rent. While families are paying a premium for early care and learning services, the programs are struggling to pay livable wages for early childhood teachers. Most of the early childhood workforce is employed in state-licensed child care and their annual wages are only 40 percent of the overall statewide average. For example, a child care teacher makes an average annual salary of $20,676 compared to a public sector employee earning $54,528+. Wages in this sector are too low to attract and sustain a high quality workforce. Higher quality early care and learning programs come at a cost, yet we know families are unable to afford more. The report brochure highlights the difference in the cost for higher quality care.

In addition to the economic impact of the early care and learning sector on today’s workforce and economy, the report reviews and highlights the benefits of investing in early care and learning. Not only does the sector play an important role in Alaska’s economy, the report highlights research suggesting that investments in early care and learning boost productivity in the workforce over the next several decades.

Quality early care and learning is a smart long-term investment for government. Research highlighted in the study shows early childhood education can reduce negative and costly outcomes for government and society. This includes savings associated with reduction in crime, delinquency, reliance on welfare, and health care costs coupled with improvement in educational achievement. Investments in early care and learning will have an increased economic impact in Alaska.

thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network, is committed to strengthening access to affordable and high-quality early care and learning. We invite you to share the 2015 Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning Report with others, talk with your lawmakers about the importance of early care and learning for Alaska, and join Alaska Children’s Trust and other early childhood supporters in strengthening our families and young children.

SB pictureStephanie Berglund is the chief executive officer of thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network. She oversees statewide network services aimed at advancing early care and learning, specifically to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of child care in Alaska. Stephanie lives in Anchorage with her husband and 10-year-old daughter. She is deeply committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in Alaska.