In his State of the Union address, President Obama said “Study after study has shown the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.” At United Neighborhood Houses, New York City’s federation of settlement houses and community centers, our member agencies have seen how true this is as they are among major nonprofit providers of child care in the City. Child after child, we have seen that early learning gives children the tools they will need to succeed in school. We have also seen how child care gives parents the support they need to find and keep their jobs.
And sadly, we have seen what happens when child care subsidies are cut. We have heard from so many parents who are working hard to support their young children and who may lose the subsidies they rely on. They are proud of the progress their kids are making: how quickly they are growing, how much they are learning, how they are making friends with other pre-schoolers and seeing their teachers as role models. All parents want to see their kids keep learning and growing. And yet despite the demand from parents and the growing consensus that early childhood education is essential, child care subsidies are at risk of being cut in this year’s New York City budget. In fact, more than 47,000 children in New York City are at risk of losing child care or after-school.
President Obama has put forward a bold plan to expand early childhood education. This plan includes investments in State Pre-K programs, Head Start and Early Head Start. President Obama’s plan calls for states and localities to build comprehensive systems that ensure the availability of high quality early childhood education for young children from low and moderate income families.
We must respond to this plan by building, stabilizing and strengthening early childhood education in states and localities across the country. We need to not just fight cuts at the City level but increase investments so that programs have the resources to pay qualified staff to run top quality programs. We need to expand the capacity of our early childhood systems so that no child loses out on the opportunity for an early childhood education.
America’s children deserve a high quality early childhood education and President Obama has put forward a bold plan that can bring the benefits of high quality child care and early childhood education to more children. We call on Congress and local policymakers to ensure that this bold and necessary vision becomes a reality for our children.