This year, I was selected as one of two Edward J. Meade Policy Fellows through the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL). In June, I traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with several nonprofits, foundations, and elected officials focused on early childhood education and care. Before attending Harvard, I worked for the federal and local government and several nonprofit organizations to expand high-quality early childhood education and care to children in New Mexico.
We know more than ever about brain architecture and early childhood development. Access to high-quality care ensures our earliest learners develop the cognitive, social, and emotional skills and experiences needed to be successful in school and life. Children who face greater adversity, like living in poverty, are at far greater risk for delays in their development. While early childhood education is where we see the largest return on investment, it is also where we consistently invest the least.
This year, my home state of New Mexico established the Early Childhood Education and Care Department. My conversations in D.C. focused on the rare and exciting opportunity NM has to coordinate the administration of birth-through-grade-three programs for young children and their families. Below are four ways states can expand early childhood care and learning programs:
● Create on the job training through apprenticeships. A 2016 U.S. Department of Education report states apprenticeships are an opportunity to “learn by doing” through site-based training.
● Continue to raise reimbursement rates paid by the state to providers of subsidized ECE programs. This allows providers to raise wages, helpful in recruiting and retaining educators.
● Provide state funding for professional development and educational supports to ensure an adequate supply of highly skilled educators.
● Encourage articulation agreements with community colleges.
● Provide high school students training within ECE classrooms.
● States need dedicated funding mechanisms that are more stable than annual discretionary appropriations from general revenue, like the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five program (PDG B-5).
● Funds should be blended or braided seamlessly, with minimal burden on children and families, to support both education and care throughout the day and to cover a full workday 5 days a week, 12 months a year.
● States should align child care eligibility verification requirements with Head Start Performance.
● Allow states and Head Start agencies to jointly apply for waivers based on Early Learning Council plans for systems integration and improvement.
● Support early childhood education coalitions and connect communities with partner organizations like Alliance for Early Success, Ounce of Prevention, BUILD, NBCDI and others.
● Partner with foundations and philanthropies like W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Leading for Equity
Children living in poverty are at increased risk for poor health, social, developmental, behavioral, and academic outcomes. I had the opportunity to meet with the National Black Child Development Institute. NBCDI is leading efforts to end discriminatory suspension and expulsion rates for children of color.
● NBCDI is focused on expanding the ECE leadership pipeline for teachers of color to lead schools, districts and administrations.
● Develop and implement Cultural Competency Action Plans to provide culturally congruent care to reduce disparities through administrative support, education, and trainings.
● Provide clear pathways for bilingual instructors and dual-language programs.
High-quality early learning puts children on the path to success in school and in life. Many young children in New Mexico do not have access to early childhood education and care programs. The patchwork of underfunded programs and services available to families is insufficient. Using these four strategies, states can strategically expand high-quality care and education while supporting professionals and keeping children at the center of the work.
Danila Crespin Zidovsky, MPA, is a first year Ed.L.D. doctoral candidate at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a first-generation Mexican American raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Danila has taught both in the United States and abroad in South Korea. After working for a member of Congress, Danila earned her Master’s in Public Administration from the University of New Mexico and has since focused her career in early childhood education. She has worked for various nonprofits, including those focused on social justice, early childhood education, Latino culture and history, and education policy. She has served as senior staff for multiple political campaigns, both at the national and at the local level. Danila looks forward to continuing her efforts to expand high quality early childhood education and care for our country’s earliest learners. She serves on the board of the Center for Civic Policy, UNM School of Public Administration, and Emerge New Mexico.