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Quality child care is key to economy [US]

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Harris, Wayne R.
Publication Date: 
25 May 2004

See text below.


We have a duty to adequately train our future workforce, but as things now stand, we might be maintaining a child-care system that will woefully under-serve our need for educated, emotionally stable employees.

The children in many of these families end up in child care, much of which is not adequate when it comes to stimulating the child's learning abilities. The largest number of children exposed to poor care are our minority and poor populations, but even the middle class population is not being served as well as we would expect.

To add to this dilemma, as our population grows, a majority of that growth will be among lower-income minorities, who won't have the wherewithal to provide quality child care for their children.

Many cities are attacking this problem by establishing programs to better support the care of their toddlers and preschoolers. While we have an admirable and unique program of city accreditation of child-care programs, high-quality child care is not available to all of our children and is least available to our children in lower to middle income families.

If we are to maintain our status as a caring, progressive city in a caring, progressive state, we must begin to find a way to provide quality care to all children.

Early education for our children will cut crime, lessen the need for special education (which is skyrocketing in cost), give our teachers a better quality of life (less-disruptive students), provide for a more inclusive community and give us much better employees in the future.

Our current child-care system is crumbling, especially for children from poorer families. Instructors' pay is inadequate, which causes turnover, which causes disruption in a child's learning. It is difficult to recruit good people into these jobs because of the low pay. This cycle means the quality of the care continues to suffer.

Twenty years from now, we want our Madison to be an example of a place where we care about all of our children. Please help by demanding that early education and child care be given more attention from our city leaders and legislators.

Whenever we discuss making Madison a better place to live, we need to start at the beginning - providing early education for all of our children.

* Harris serves on Madison's Early Childhood Care and Education Board.

- reprinted from Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal