February 17, 2020 9:13am
Op-Ed: How investing in preschool and child care will grow Kentucky’s economy
The article first appeared in The Courier-Journal on February 14, 2020.
Policymakers in Frankfort have taken great strides to secure a better future for Kentucky by investing in our children. We have seen improvements to early learning opportunities, reforms to child welfare systems, and increased funding for K-12 education. Policies like these lead to stronger communities and a stronger Kentucky economy.
But we know that much more remains to be done.
Consider these statistics:
- Nearly 50% of children in Kentucky enter kindergarten unprepared.
- Half of all Kentucky families live in child care deserts — areas either without child care providers or an insufficient number of child care slots.
- Kentucky preschool enrollment of 3- and 4-year-olds fell from 24th nationally in 2008 to 41st in 2018.
- In 2016, more than 30,000 Kentucky parents quit a job, did not take a job or modified their job due to lack of access to child care — a startling statistic given that Kentucky currently has 15,000 more open jobs than individuals seeking jobs.
- We miss out on $939 million in economic activity from parents kept out of the workforce by child care costs.
The data shows that Kentucky families are not finding the support they need. The commonwealth’s economy is suffering as a result.
In 2020, Greater Louisville Inc. and Metro United Way are urging lawmakers to make Kentucky a leader in early childhood success and remove child care as a barrier to employment. Kentucky must strategically increase access to high-quality child care through a mixed-delivery model that relies on both public and private partners. This would ensure that more Kentucky children enter the K-12 system ready to excel, and more parents participate and advance in the workforce. Increased investment in early childhood would also have a strong economic return. Every $1 invested in early childhood will yield a $5 return to our economy.
Together, GLI and Metro United Way have outlined a series of shared legislative and budgetary priorities:
- Increase Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) reimbursement rates and incentives for serving infants, toddlers and young children in high-quality child care centers and family care settings.
- Increase per-child funding for public preschool.
- Increase eligibility for both the Child Care Assistance Program and public preschool to 200% of federal poverty level.
- Pass House Concurrent Resolution 52, sponsored by Reps. Josie Raymond and Steve Sheldon, to establish a task force to study early care and education programs in Kentucky to improve access and quality for children and families.
Both of our organizations are confronted regularly with the reality that too many Kentucky children are not being given the opportunities they need to succeed and too many Kentucky parents are forced to choose between their careers and caring for their children. Proposals like the ones we are advocating for in 2020 can help address these issues, develop our workforce, and ensure a brighter future for the commonwealth. We encourage all members of the greater Louisville community to join us in advocating for increased investment in our children and in Kentucky’s future.