Research shows the early years, birth to age 5, are the most critical time for brain development. Eighty percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 3, over 90 percent by age 5. Yet early education does not get a lot of attention. Why are we not prioritizing Iowa’s youngest?
Studies show children who attend quality early care and education programs start school with better math, language and social skills. These are skills children need to be successful not only in their academic career but in life.
Investing in early ed is more than just advocating for high quality, affordable, accessible child care and preschools for young learners — which is important. But it also means we must invest in the early ed workforce and in families. The workforce needs a livable wage, access to high-quality training and education opportunities, access to programs such as Linn County’s own HACAP PACES to Quality, Iowa CCR&R, and Iowa T.E.A.C.H & WAGE$. These programs must receive adequate funding as they play an important role in helping the workforce increase the quality of their work, knowledge and the physical environment of children.
Unfortunately, not all families can stay home with their children. In Iowa, we have one of the highest rates (around 72 percent) with both parents in the workforce, meaning most of Iowa’s children are in some form of child care. We must invest in addressing the child care desert situation, as this also becomes an economic issue. We also need to offer families education opportunities to help their early learners thrive by investing in programs like our own local YPN, Spark*5 and even public libraries that offer programs for young children.
Investing in early care and education provides such a great return on investment. It’s a return that I see daily through my hands-on work with Iowa children and families. Returns that I continue to be educated about through the multiple early care and education committees and boards I sit on at a local, state and national level.
As a candidate for District 70, I understand these issues well and am committed to helping Iowa’s children, families and workforce thrive.
By investing in early ed we can address many other issues around the state and, by investing in me as a candidate, I can help make that happen.
• Tracy Ehlert is the Democratic candidate for Iowa House District 70.
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