February 23, 2000

First Things First
Make Sure Every Child Arrives at School Ready to Learn

The Research:

  • Quality child care is essential for learning later on. Eighty-five percent of brain development takes place before age 3.
  • Quality early care and education leads to positive classroom learning behavior,and better chances of long-term school success and economic and social self-sufficiency.
  • The best indicator of quality care is the training and retention of teachers.
  • An investment of $1 in quality early child care saves $7 in spending later on costs associated with juvenile delinquency, high school failure, crime and unemployment.

The Crisis:

  • Nearly one-third of all children arrive at kindergarten unprepared.
  • More than sixty-two percent of families in York County rely on non-parental child care.
  • Only 4 child care centers in York are accredited.
  • The cost of quality child care in most states is more expensive than tuition at a state college or university - between $5,000 and $10,000 per year.
  • Child care consumes between 25 and 30 percent of most working families' total income.
  • Even with federal assistance, most working families cannot afford quality child care.
  • Child care providers, even those with college educations, make less than $15,000 per year.
  • The turnover rate for child care providers is 34% -- this means that on average, children have a new teacher every 4 months.

The First Things First Initiative:

  • Expand low-income families access to quality child care by doubling low-income assistance through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program.
  • Require states to streamline child care assistance applications so that the process is not an impediment for working poor families.
  • Make the child care tax credit mean something for working families by increasing the child credit to 50% of expenses (from the current 20%) for families making less than $35,000 per year, and reduce that credit by one percentage point per $1,000 earned over $35,000.
  • Double CCDBG grants to states for child care quality initiatives, such as teacher and administrator training, increased teacher pay, accreditation of child care centers, purchase of teaching equipment and increased retention of child care providers.
  • Create a new grant program to encourage local collaboratives such as York's own Focus on our Future to improve child care quality.
  • Begin national student loan forgiveness program for college graduates to enter early childhood education and maintain employment with a center for more than one year.
  • Create tax credits for businesses to get involved in quality early child care by establishing quality centers on their premises, offering an off-site child care benefit to employees, or investing in improving the quality of local non-profit child care centers.

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