A Federal Performance Partnership for Early Childhood
View related content: Education
- Childcare is early education, but high-quality childcare is financially out of reach for many working families. As a result, millions of children from birth to kindergarten entry end up in subpar care, compromising their growth during the most crucial developmental years.
- States increasingly recognize childcare’s critical impact on children’s early learning and development. Yet fragmentation among federal funding streams is hindering growing state efforts to provide low-income working families with adequate access to high-quality care.
- A federal performance partnership offers an innovative approach to this problem. By granting greater flexibility in the use of funds awarded across various funding streams, a performance partnership in early childhood can advance states’ capacity to meet the needs of working families and their young children while amplifying the impact of current spending.
Childcare is playing an unprecedented role in the lives of America’s young children. While in 1940 fewer than one in 10 women with children under age six were in the workforce, today almost seven out of 10 are working outside the home.1 That means millions of children are now in the care of people other than their parents, often starting at birth.
By kindergarten entry, many young children have spent more than 11,000 hours in childcare—compared to the 1,100 hours or less for a full-year pre-K or Head Start program.2 And those thousands of hours in childcare are occurring during the most crucial developmental period of a child’s life. The science is clear: For better or for worse, the early experiences of babies and young children have a profound, lasting impact on the rest of their lives.3
Too many low-income children today are entering kindergarten so far behind that they can never catch up. High-quality childcare, which helps the country’s youngest, most disadvantaged children get a good start while enabling their parents to work, holds great untapped potential to increase low-income children’s chances for success. By promoting the complementary aims of healthy child development on the one hand and adult responsibility and self-sufficiency on the other, childcare provides a powerful strategy for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and advancing opportunity for two generations simultaneously.
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Women in the Labor Force: A Databook,” December 2014, https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/ womens-databook/archive/women-in-the-labor-force-a-databook-2014.pdf.
- Total hours of childcare are calculated at 40 hours per week from birth through age four. Total hours for pre-K is calculated based on a full year of a typical, full-day program: six hours per day for 180 regular school days.
- Katharine B. Stevens, Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow: The Business Case for High-Quality Childcare, US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, June 2017, http://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Workforce-of-Today-Workforce- of-Tomorrow_FINAL.pdf.
What’s new in education
Sign up for the Ed Express newsletter
The latest from AEI Education Policy scholars