There are countless reasons why supporting the early childhood workforce is central to an economically thriving community. Much like construction workers shape our infrastructure through building our cities’ roads, bridges, and buildings, the early childhood workforce plays an integral role in shaping the development of our most valuable resource—young children.
Municipal leaders recognize the importance of high-quality early childhood education opportunities and many are taking action to implement policies that support the early childhood workforce. NLC reached out to the cities of Jacksonville, Florida; Long Beach, California; and Albuquerque, New Mexico to find out how their municipal leaders are supporting the early childhood workforce.
Long Beach: One of Mayor Robert Garcia’s main objectives is early childhood education and he pushed for the creation of the city’s Early Childhood Strategic Plan. Inspired by the strategic plan, an ECE Workforce Taskforce of local partner agencies was formed to tackle issues specific to early childhood education – including equitable wages, retention, recruitment and career growth. In its pilot year, the task force includes scholarships to support the early childhood workforce attainment of associate degrees.
Albuquerque: The City of Albuquerque recognizes and celebrates its role as one of the largest early childhood care and education employers in central New Mexico. Through its educational leave policy, Albuquerque supports employees who are seeking additional formal education and those seeking the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department Early Childhood Scholarship. The City also supports city employees in their participation in the Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) Mentor network. In partnership with CNM and Youth Development Incorporated (YDI)—the largest Head Start provider in the area), the city has developed a special Child Development Certificate cohort. The child development certificate is similar to the Child Development Associate credential, except courses taken to obtain the Child Development Certificate count towards the obtainment of an associate degree. In August 2020, the city, along with CNM and YDI, will launch an accelerated associate degree in early childhood multicultural education programs.
Jacksonville: Through its work with NLC’s Cities Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce initiative, Jacksonville has been working to support early learning and professional development opportunities. The creation of the Kids Hope Alliance merged two agencies into a single organization with five essential services areas, one of which was early learning. This streamlining of agencies recognizes the importance of providing a strong foundation for children. Kids Hope Alliance provides job-embedded professional development experiences, such as instructional coaching. The training and CLASS standards certifications take place on-site in early childhood centers making them easily accessible to a low-wage workforce that struggles with the costs of private training or with taking time off work to attend courses. With city-funded support, most programs improve in quality ratings and teachers improve in CLASS scores, resulting in a positive impact on wages when a center earns higher reimbursement rates from the state and a higher annual wage incentive for the teacher.
While not every city has the same approach, promoting policies and practices to ensure the early childhood workforce is well-trained, fully compensated, and has access to resources is vital to the child’s success later in life.
For more ways municipal leaders can support the early childhood workforce, please check out NLC’s Cities Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce brief.
About the Author: Kathryn Shibuya is a senior associate for Early Childhood in the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.