Early Childhood Success is a Citywide Priority

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A well-aligned early care and education system includes streamlined communication and coordinated services that address the full range of academic, behavioral, health and family issues.

teacher with kids - blog(Getty/Jupiterimages)

As a culmination of the National League of Cities’ (NLC) two-year project to help cities align early childhood care and education systems from birth through third grade, NLC hosted the National Briefing for Educational Alignment for Young Children in Washington, D.C. recently. This event brought together high-level federal officials, national organizations and mayors from across the country on a rainy November day to discuss lessons learned from six cities that have been developing citywide systems to promote educational alignment for young children over the last two years.

With the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families supports cities in their alignment efforts through its Educational Alignment for Young Children (EAYC) initiative.

The six participating EAYC cities, all of which have made significant progress toward aligning resources and services and developing partnerships to improve early childhood care and education, include:

The national briefing featured opening remarks from Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities, and Joelle-Jude Fontaine, program officer for WKKF. Clifford Johnson, executive director of NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, moderated a panel of three mayors committed to ensuring that families have access to high-quality early care and education for their children. The panelists included Betsy Price, mayor of Fort Worth; Pedro Segarra, mayor of Hartford; and Lovely Warren, mayor of Rochester.

Mayor Price emphasized the need to engage the business community on early learning issues, and Mayor Segarra noted how his city’s control of the school distrticts has influenced their work around educational alignment. Mayor Warren discussed how Rochester is a program-rich community that is working to be more results-driven.

After an engaging discussion that provided a unique mayoral perspective on the necessary building blocks for early childhood success, Dr. Libby Doggett of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Dr. Ellen Wheatley of the Administration for Children and Families and Calvin Johnson of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development joined the mayors on stage for comments and Q&A from the audience.

Dr. Doggett stated the need for creative partnerships between DOE and communities, and promoted the use of DOE funds for programs for children ages birth to three. Dr. Wheatley appreciated the mayors’ focus on family engagement and emphasized the need for cities to support all child care providers including home-based providers. Mr. Johnson emphasized HUD’s potential to better support young children living in public housing, highlighting the fact that the number of young children in public housing is so great that they could make up their own large city.

The briefing then segued into table conversations about key takeaways from the panel discussion and next steps for the six EAYC cities. Participants emphasized the importance of local leadership in improving outcomes for cities’ youngest residents.

Other key takeaways include:

  • Stakeholders need more opportunities to exchange and build on innovative ideas and successes.
  • Empowering and listening to parents is critical.
  • Mayors and city councilmembers can act as champions for early childhood by making it a citywide priority.
  • Cities need to think creatively about where and how collaboration can occur, and with whom.

NLC’s National Briefing on Educational Alignment for Young Children brought together a diverse set of voices and perspectives in the early childhood field and beyond to think critically about how policymakers and practitioners can improve outcomes for the nation’s youngest learners. NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families is committed to supporting municipal leadership in early childhood and serving as a resource and facilitator for collaboration within and among cities across the country.

Lauren Robertson
About the Author:
Lauren Robertson is the associate for early childhood in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.