How Data is Transforming Education in Nashville

When those closest to students collaboratively use data, students are given individualized opportunities that enable them to excel.

Leaders from across the city of Nashville are working together toward a common goal – and effective data use is central to their work. (Getty Images)

Too often, education happens in siloes. Programs and funding streams are separate, schools and afterschool programs are islands, and no one speaks the same language. But students don’t come in pieces. We will not help every student excel until all of the adults who interact directly with students have the information they need, and collaborate using that information, to support student learning.

In the City of Nashville, a partnership between Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and the city-funded afterschool program for middle school youth, the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA), has significantly improved students’ reading ability in just three months.
This is exactly the type of partnership and focus students need, especially if they are struggling or falling behind.

With access to data about their students’ reading levels, NAZA staff were able to provide individual reading tutors to students in need of additional support afterschool. In just three months, students’ reading ability significantly improved. The NAZA and MNPS partnership is just one example of how districts and afterschool programs can make data work for students, but it demonstrates the steps any partnership can take to help students excel. Here’s how Nashville’s leaders made this work possible:

  • Data Sharing: With afterschool as one of the mayor’s priorities, city leaders created and endorsed a detailed data-sharing agreement to ensure that NAZA staff would have role-based access (i.e., secure, and only the data they need) to student information.
  • Communication: NAZA staff and school leaders are in regular communication about students’ needs and how programs can best supplement the learning going on in school.
  • Individualization: NAZA staff use school data to provide tailored academic supports to students to ensure they are receiving the right kinds of support at the right time.
  • Collaboration: Leaders from across the city are working together toward a common goal – and effective data use is central to their work.

Data has the potential to transform education from a model of mass production to a personalized experience that meets the needs of individuals, ensuring that no student is lost along the way. Data also has the potential to extend beyond academics. School data on behavior and at-risk factors helps programs like NAZA know when certain students are in need of other supports. MNPS and NAZA work together to ensure that the city’s afterschool programs are responsive to the unique needs of their students and communities. Because of NAZA’s commitment to effective data use, students receive targeted supports that result in improved academic outcomes.

Even Congress has recognized the value of afterschool experiences to support student success. The Every Student Succeeds Act highlights the value of school-community partnerships by requiring states’ lowest performing schools to explore how community-based organizations, including afterschool partners, can help improve students’ academic outcomes. And smartly so. Students who participate in high-quality afterschool programs see positive effects on a range of outcomes, including academic performance, in-school behavior, and attendance.

A growing number of cities have taken note and are turning to afterschool programs to build on the learning that happens in school. To make sure afterschool time packs the intended academic punch, many districts and cities are working to securely share information about student learning with vetted afterschool providers to help align and inform the academic supports students receive. Afterschool providers need role-based access to relevant information about the students they serve in order to understand how and where to focus their support. But for this to happen, state and local leaders must work together to align systems and policies that promote and incentivize the kind of collaboration and innovation happening in Nashville.

For more information on how cities can assist in afterschool and data sharing efforts visit www.nlc.org/afterschooldata.

brennan (1)About the Author: Brennan McMahon Parton is the Associate Director for State Policy and Advocacy at Data Quality Campaign.

Drones Will Have an Impact on Your City. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Cities across America will need to decide how they want to manage widespread commercial drone use, how they want to adopt drone technology for themselves, and how best they can encourage innovation in this exciting and growing field while still ensuring public safety.

(Getty Images)

Drones have the potential to revolutionize many industries and city services, particularly as their technology advances. Drones can be used for law enforcement and firefighting, as rural ambulances, and for inspections, environmental monitoring, and disaster management. (Getty Images)

We live in automated times. The technologies that for many represent the modern epoch – automobiles and airplanes – are maturing into a connected and automated future which will mark this century as much as Ford and the Wright brothers marked the previous one. While fully self-driving cars may still be a decade or so away, remotely piloted and even automated drones are already here.

Drones, like airplanes before them, are proving to be a versatile technology. Whether they are revolutionizing search and rescue capabilities or those of realtors showing off their homes, drones are lowering the cost and increasing the reach of airborne services. An individual can buy a drone for as little as a hundred dollars, sometimes less, and mount it with a low-cost high definition camera. While this technology puts the sky within reach for the layman, it also represents an opportunity for cities to augment their public services in new and innovative ways.

Drone sales have ballooned this decade, with around 700,00 recreational drones sold in 2015 alone. The retail research group NDP released a report in May announcing that drone sales tripled from the previous year. On June 21, the Federal Aviation Administration, which expects the number of drones to grow from 2.5 million in 2016 to 7 million by 2020, released new comprehensive regulations governing the use of drones in U.S. airspace.

While the new FAA regulations make strides towards strengthening drone registration and accountability infrastructure, they leave the bulk of enforcement and regulation to local and state government. As our skies become more crowded than ever, it is up to cities across America to decide how and when they want to see widespread commercial drone use, how they want to adopt drone technology for some of their own operations, and how best they can encourage innovation in this exciting and growing field while still ensuring public safety, accountability, and enforcement.

Drone technology promises to bring some exciting innovations that will help cities save revenue while increasing the effectiveness of the services they offer. Already, cities like Somerville, Massachusetts, and Tampa, Florida, are adopting drones for aerial inspections of city infrastructure. Arlington, Texas, and Grand Forks, North Dakota, are using drones to augment their local law enforcement capabilities. While drones offer a boon to municipalities looking to increase their effectiveness while lowering costs, this technology is quickly being adopted commercially as well. Drones are already used for precision farming and aerial photography, and are well on their way to being adopted for emergency medical services and commercial package delivery.

In a familiar pattern, innovation has outpaced legislation, leaving some cities behind as new drone businesses and practices emerge. When cities and towns are slow to act, they face possible preemption by their state legislatures, as has occurred in Maryland, and are missing a meaningful opportunity to shape drone use in their communities. The National League of Cities (NLC) has just released its municipal guide, Cities and Drones, as the first comprehensive study of the landscape of municipal drone adoption and regulation. The objective of this report is to assist local policy and decision makers as they consider their own community’s embrace of this technology. The challenge for local officials will be crafting policy and regulations that enable this drone technology to serve their cities best, embracing innovation, while still considering the safety and privacy concerns of their residents.

To read more about this issue, check out our full report, Cities and Drones: What Cities Need to Know About Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or the shorter issue brief.

About the Author: Elias Stahl is the Urban Innovation Intern in the National League of Cities (NLC) Center for City Solutions and Applied Research.

What It Takes to Be a Comeback City

In this Big Ideas for Cities feature, Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson discusses how pulling together the right team, the right ideas, and the right plan has set the city up for a resurgence.

When Karen Freeman-Wilson became mayor of Gary, Indiana, she faced persistent challenges such as crime and blight — but around the time she came into office, the city lost a significant portion of its revenue as well. “So much of [today’s] discussion is framed in the context of the recession of 2008,” said Mayor Freeman-Wilson in her Big Ideas for Cities talk. “That didn’t really mean a whole lot for us. In 2006, the state of Indiana passed permanent property tax caps. And by 2012, they became a part of our constitution, meaning that residential tax-payers paid one percent, commercial two percent, and industrial tax-payers paid no more than three percent. The long and short of that is: on the day I took office, I lost 60 percent of my property tax budget.”

Gary, Ind. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson delivers her Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Florida. (Jason Dixson Photography)

Gary, Ind. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson delivers her Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Florida. (Jason Dixson Photography)

Do you have a big idea? Since 2014, the National League of Cities’ Big Ideas for Cities series has featured cities and businesses that are using “big ideas” to drive communities forward. The series has quickly become a popular platform for leaders to share their success stories and describe, in detail, the steps they’ve taken to make their communities better.

We are currently accepting speaker submissions. Leaders are invited to share the best practices and innovative solutions moving their cities forward. The series is filmed year-round and open to individuals from all sectors – public, private and nonprofit. Talks are filmed at NLC’s studio in our new building on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.58.14 AMAbout the author: Tim Mudd is the Program Manager for Content and Social Media at the National League of Cities. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimMudd.

I Love Being a Police Officer – But We Need Reform

As part of our efforts to promote professional development among city leaders, each week we’ll be featuring a new TED Talk focused on cities, community issues or local government. In this week’s talk, Baltimore Police officer Lt. Colonel Melvin Russell shares how he is bringing stakeholders together to work toward the common goal of peace and prosperity for Baltimore City.

We’ve invested so much in police departments as protectors that we have forgotten what it means to serve our communities, says Baltimore Police officer Lt. Colonel Melvin Russell. It’s led to coldness and callousness, and it’s dehumanized the police force. After taking over as district commander in one of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods, Russell instituted a series of reforms aimed at winning back the trust of the community and lowering the violent crime rate. “Law enforcement is in a crisis,” he says. “But it’s not too late for all of us to build our cities and nation to make it great again.”

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

How Cities Can Advance Racial Equity Through Community Conversations

These cities are proving that progress is possible when dialogues are sustained over time and a wide range of stakeholders are included to create opportunities for healing.

(Getty Images)

Led by Chief Cameron McLay, police in the city of Pittsburgh are mirroring efforts in other cities around the country to build trust with the communities they serve. (Sean Pavone/Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Aileen Carr.

The National League of Cities (NLC) has been working with the White House and U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) to encourage local officials to convene 100 community conversations on race relations, justice, policing and equality. NLC’s work on this project reflects our broader commitment to race and equity, which is embodied in our Race, Equity And Leadership initiative (REAL). REAL is NLC’s effort to equip its membership with the capacity to respond to racial tensions in their communities, identify the systemic barriers that sustain racial injustice in our nation’s cities, and build more equitable communities.

NLC member cities have accepted the call from President Obama, and we have exceeded our goal. To date, 105 cities have committed to hosting White House Community Conversations, and the White House has convened more than 300 local law enforcement agencies from around the country to discuss community policing. REAL staff have been actively engaging with and supporting city leaders as they plan their convenings as well as offering consultation and technical assistance with framing dialogues effectively, developing agendas, engaging a diverse range of stakeholders, and identifying facilitation support.

Efforts to bring politicians, police, activists and community members to discuss racial tensions can be a great first step toward real progress on racial equity in cities. Such progress is possible when the dialogues are sustained over time and a wide range of stakeholders are included to create opportunities for healing.

Here’s what we’ve learned about what’s working from Wichita, Kansas; Seattle and Tacoma, Washington; New Orleans; and Minnesota.

First Steps

A community convening is a first step in building relationships and rebuilding trust. To advance racial equity in cities, community dialogues need to be part of a sustained community effort. As President Obama said after hosting a closed door meeting on this issue with civil rights groups, law enforcement and state and local government officials, “Not only are there very real problems, but there are still deep divisions about how to solve these problems… We have to, as a country, sit down and just grind it out, solve these problems. And I think if we have that kind of sustained commitment, I’m confident we can do so.” Hosting a series of community conversations about race and policing can start the process of solving the larger community problems related to racial equity. In Wichita, Kansas – home of City councilmember LaVonta Williams, who serves on NLC’s REAL Council – police hosted a “First Step Barbecue” that brought more than 1,000 citizens together, and they plan to follow up with sustained efforts in the months to come.

Building a Big Table

Community conversations should include a wide range of stakeholders. The bigger the table, the better the outcome. Elected officials, police, clergy, civil rights groups, millennials, activists, and families of people affected by police violence should be joined by businesses, educators and coaches, students, professional sports teams or players, local celebrities, local media outlets, and other community leaders who have the trust of the community. See this short video about one “big table” conversation hosted by a local news outlet in Seattle:

Racial Healing

Dialogues between community and police officers should be explicit about racial bias in policing and acknowledge the historical role of policing in the creation of racial inequities. Having that tough conversation can lead to the kind of real healing in our communities that is necessary for establishing a strong foundation and taking actions that result in more equitable outcomes. As Pittsburgh Chief of Police Cameron McLay notes, “It’s critically important to have the moral courage to say sorry. I’m sorry for the shared history. I’m sorry for the role my profession has played in the harm that has been caused to our communities of color. And I’m sorry for the days where we didn’t have our best day, but I’m going to hold myself accountable for making sure that from now on that we’re going to try to work together with you to find more just ways to deliver our police services. Trust is something we have to earn.” For more from Chief McLay, listen here:

Other cities that are weaving racial healing into their police-community engagement and broader racial equity efforts are New Orleans and Tacoma.

  • Project PEACE – Tacoma, Washington:

Beyond Policing: Applying a Racial Equity Lens

Racial equity efforts at the city level are not just about policing. Local government policies, practices, and programs of all kinds can perpetuate existing racial disparities or help to dismantle them. With a sustained commitment to applying a racial equity lens to decisions across government, cities across the country are building inclusive, equitable communities. One example of these systematic efforts is in Minnesota, where the League of Minnesota Cities is working with our partners at the Government Alliance for Racial Equity to engage more than 10 cities in a long term effort to operationalize racial equity in their city governments. Here is a video describing their efforts:

We implore city leaders to take action and proactively address issues of racism and inequality in their communities. If your city is hosting meaningful conversations on race, justice and equity, please email us your stories and videos.

About the Author: Aileen Carr is the Manager of NLC’s Race, Equity, And Leadership (REAL) initiative.

What I Learned at the U.S.-China Low-Carbon Cities Summit in Beijing

As Pinecrest, Florida, Mayor Cindy Lerner notes, confronting climate issues and reducing carbon emissions requires global participation at the local level.

(Getty Images)

Through the U.S. State Department, cities like Beijing have signed collaborative agreements with American NGOs to expand green business and trade opportunities and enhance cooperation in areas such as climate-smart buildings, solar tech, and low-emissions transport. (Getty Images)

This is a guest post by Pinecrest, Florida, Mayor Cindy Lerner.

Last year, I was invited to be a member of the U.S. Compact of Mayors delegation to the first U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit, held in Los Angeles. The invitation from the White House was based on my leadership in the National League of Cities as the Chair of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. The 2015 Summit hosted 30 U.S. mayors and dozens of city leaders from China, each of whom presented on local efforts to reduce carbon emissions by advancing energy efficiencies, investing in renewable energy, and expanding transit in our cities. And it was remarkable to learn of the dozens of projects going on in cities throughout China that relied on renewable energy and focused on significantly reducing carbon emissions.

This year, the Chinese reciprocated by hosting the 2016 U.S.-China Climate-Smart / Low-Carbon Cities Summit in Beijing. I attended as one of a dozen U.S. mayors, with Bloomberg Philanthropies underwriting the costs of our travel and participation. Also at the summit were leaders from 49 Chinese cities and provinces as well as Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood Randall, a number of representatives from the State Department, and many NGO groups from the United States whose main mission is to advance clean energy. The Summit was an opportunity for U.S. and Chinese city leaders to exchange best practices on climate issues and support public-private partnerships to develop climate solutions.

Deputy Secretary Randall was a keynote speaker, and she recognized that cities and local leaders are leading the way as incubators for developing solutions. She also noted that cities are responsible for 70 percent of carbon emissions, so city leaders feel a fierce urgency to address these challenges. She announced that the U.S. government has made a commitment to double the national investment in clean energy by $12.8 billion a year to develop clean technologies, and is partnering with private investment firms, led by Bill Gates, to mobilize private industry.

Mayors from China and the United States gather at the

City leaders gather at the U.S.-China Climate-Smart / Low-Carbon Cities Summit in Beijing.

Secretary of State Kerry spoke about the significant partnership he has built with the Chinese Minister in charge of climate change and the collaborative nature of their shared commitments to advance clean energy throughout both countries. And U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baccus concluded the Summit by sharing that climate change and carbon reduction has been a significant component of the work going on between the two countries.

Mayors from great cities like Phoenix, Berkley, California, Boston, New York and Portland are all making significant investments in transit and clean energy, and have established ambitious goals to be carbon neutral by 2050. We also heard from many Chinese mayors who are piloting new clean and renewable energy programs and setting goals to significantly reduce carbon emissions and promote flexibility to adapt to climate change. Through the U.S. State Department, many mega-cities in China have signed collaborative agreements with many of the NGOs currently working in U.S. to provide technical resources and help monitor progress.

I learned that these ambitious efforts to address carbon reduction exist at the highest levels of government on a global scale – and that, at the same time, all of these efforts rely on the most local levels of government to ensure that real change takes place from the ground up. I also learned that it is up to each one of us – elected officials, community leaders, and business executives alike – to make commitments to decarbonize our cities, counties, states and, ultimately, our nations.

About the Author: Mayor Cindy Lerner has been mayor of Pinecrest, Florida, since 2008, and previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2002, when her district was eliminated due to redistricting. She chaired the NLC Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee in 2015 and was President of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities in 2014.

What City Leaders Need to Know About Zika

As the first cases of the Zika virus were identified in the contiguous United States, it is important for city leaders to understand the virus and ways they can educate and prepare their communities.

(Image courtesy CDC)

A map showing where in the United States cases of the Zika virus have been reported to ArboNET, a national arboviral surveillance system managed by the CDC. (Image courtesy CDC)

Last Monday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health confirmed Zika virus infections and persistent mosquito populations in the Wynwood neighborhood of north Miami, Florida. With this new information and the risk of continued active transmission of Zika in that area, it is important for city leaders to understand both the situation in Florida, as well as the necessary precautions cities across the United States can take.

Travel to Florida-designated Areas

The CDC has issued travel, testing and other recommendations for those who traveled to the Wynwood neighborhood on or after June 15, 2016. This is the first time the CDC has warned against travel to any area within the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease. The greatest risk, of course, is to pregnant women and their partners, as well as those who are planning to become pregnant. As the CDC’s Emergency Response Team becomes fully operational to this site, we can expect to receive more information and guidance.

Zika 101

Even for those who have no plans to travel to Florida, or to other areas with confirmed cases of the Zika virus, it is important to understand this disease. Here are the five things that everyone should know:

  1. Zika is spread through the Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitos can be found throughout the United States. The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites.
  2. Zika can also be transmitted sexually, and passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, which can cause significant birth defects.
  3. Pregnant woman should not travel to Zika-impacted areas.
  4. Travelers infected with Zika can spread the virus through mosquito bites.
  5. There is no vaccine for Zika.

The CDC awarded $16 million to states and territories last week for systems to detect microcephaly and other outcomes of Zika, referrals for impacted families to appropriate services and for the monitoring of outcomes of children affected by Zika. These awards are meant to be a stopgap measure until Congress votes on a Zika aid package. We anticipate that this will be a top priority when Congress returns in September.

Prevention

This summer, it is important for everyone to take steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika. While we are still learning more about this virus and its long-term impacts, these simple steps, including the use of insect repellant and screens on windows and doors, will help to ensure that we are doing our best to confront this challenge.

What Can Local Leaders Do?

Getting the word out about Zika is critically important as many Americans still are not fully aware of the impacts of this disease. While the CDC and news outlets have been doing their part, local leaders have a unique opportunity to ensure that accurate and timely information on this virus is shared in their communities by:

  • Hosting a Press Conference with your Health Department to educate and inform your community about the Zika virus, utilizing the many resources provided by the CDC.
  • Writing an Op-Ed to make sure your community knows the risks of the Zika virus and how to be prepared.

As you develop communication plans and best practices in your cities and towns, we hope that you will share them with us. The National League of Cities is also happy to help connect you with further resources – please reach out to us anytime.

About the Author: Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman is the Program Director for Human Development at the National League of Cities. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @martinezruckman.

How the City of Chattanooga Became a Destination for Innovation

In this Big Ideas for Cities feature, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tells the story of how his city became a hotbed for entrepreneurship and innovation.

When Andy Berke became mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2013, he imagined a city where frequent interaction, intellectual and creative collisions, and knowledge spillovers would be routine. Whereas the outgoing city administration worked to revive the city’s ailing industrial sector through the recruitment of traditional manufacturing businesses, Mayor Berke believed the city’s future prosperity was tied, in part, to the innovation economy and would require a comprehensive overhaul of past economic policies.

“In Chattanooga, we know the pain of holding onto the past for too long, because we’ve done it,” says Mayor Berke. “When we talk about economic resiliency and the way mid-size cities can be a part of the future of our new economy, it has special meaning for Chattanooga.” In this talk, learn how this once struggling manufacturing town has orchestrated an economic success story, clustering talent, startups, established firms, nonprofits, research institutions and cultural assets to drive economic revitalization.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke delivers his Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Fla. (Jason Dixson Photography)

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke delivers his Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Florida. (Jason Dixson Photography)

Do you have a big idea?

Since 2014, the National League of Cities’ Big Ideas for Cities series has featured cities and businesses that are using “big ideas” to drive communities forward. The series has quickly become a popular platform for leaders to share their success stories and describe, in detail, the steps they’ve taken to make their communities better.

We are currently accepting speaker submissions. Leaders are invited to share the best practices and innovative solutions moving their cities forward. The series is filmed year-round and open to individuals from all sectors – public, private and nonprofit. Talks are filmed at NLC’s studio in our new building on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.

Related resources

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.58.14 AMAbout the author: Tim Mudd is the Program Manager for Content and Social Media at the National League of Cities. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimMudd.

How to Grow a Forest in Your City

As part of our efforts to promote professional development among city leaders, each week we’ll be featuring a new TED Talk focused on cities, community issues or local government. This week’s talk focuses on inspiring, civic-minded urban forestry projects, and is presented by TED Fellow Shubhendu Sharma.

Forests don’t have to be far-flung nature reserves, isolated from human life. Instead, we can grow them right where we are — even in cities. Eco-entrepreneur and TED Fellow Shubhendu Sharma grows ultra-dense, biodiverse mini-forests of native species in urban areas by engineering soil, microbes and biomass to kickstart natural growth processes. Follow along as he describes how to grow a 100-year-old forest in just 10 years, and learn how city leaders can join the party.

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.

Looking to Expand Early Education Programs? We’ve Got You Covered.

NLC has teamed up with educational partners to produce a guide that features best practices for establishing high-quality childcare and pre-K programs – complete with examples from 19 cities across the country that are leading the way.

(Getty Images)

Parents across the country are feeling the pinch as they struggle to find affordable, high-quality childcare and pre-Kindergarten programs that ensure their children are given the skills they need for future success. (Getty Images)

Working families don’t want their children left behind, as evidence shows the benefits of high quality early childhood education – and these families look to their local leaders to help find solutions.

With this in mind, the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) teamed-up with MomsRising and School Readiness Consulting to produce Strong Start for Strong Cities, an early learning resource guide for mayors, councilmembers and other municipal leaders. The guide features best practices for establishing local high quality childcare and pre-K programs, examples from 19 cities across the country that are leading the way, and personal stories from moms from all walks of life and across all 50 states and the District of Columbia about the need for these types of programs.

When done right, with strong support from city leaders, MomsRising Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner points out these types of programs can create a “win-win-win” situation – a win for children and their families, a win for cities, and a win for businesses.

Cities looking to devote scarce time and resources in support of affordable, high quality early education programs may reasonably ask, “How big of a ‘win’ is this really?” The answer? It’s big! A 2014 analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (PCEA) found that every $1 spent on early learning initiatives brings returns of nearly $8.60, roughly half of which comes in increased earnings when children who participate in high-quality programs grow up and enter the job market.

Cover_image_link_book

A win for children and their families.

Studies show that children who take part in high quality early learning experiences are more successful in high school and college, have better health outcomes, are less likely to be arrested, and are more likely to find gainful employment as adults. Additionally, the PCEA study estimates that children who are enrolled in preschool programs earn roughly $9,000 to $30,000 more than their peers who did not attend preschool.

With the high cost of childcare and preschool programs, working families are forced to make tough choices. Studies show that childcare often costs more than housing, food and transportation. In most states, full-time childcare costs more than tuition at public universities. And it’s not just cities’ poorest residents who find it difficult to afford programs that set their children on the path to success – it’s active duty military families, teachers, police officers, fire fighters and college-educated professionals.

Sometimes the difficult choices families must make include whether they are able to stay and make ends meet in their city. Amy, a mother of four young children from Virginia featured in Strong Start for Strong Cities, says the cost of preschool has forced her family to move in order to afford providing their young children the early learning opportunities they need. “My husband’s commute will be an hour and a half each way, five days a week, by public transportation (two buses and two metro trains) – but now we’ll afford preschool and rent. Arlington does not have affordable housing or preschool for young active duty military families,” Amy writes.

A win for cities.

Cities that invest in high quality, affordable early childhood programs help keep their families economically stable, meaning these residents rely less on local social safety net programs, have greater opportunities to buy a home, save for their retirement, and send their kids to college. These families will also have more disposable income to spend at restaurants, entertainment and cultural venues, and other local businesses. The children that benefit directly from these early learning programs will have a stronger earning potential and become future members of cities’ workforce and leadership.

Fort Worth, Texas, Mayor Betsy Price has led the way, saying it is “critical” that cities advance early learning opportunities for their residents. Mayor Price worked with the Fort Worth City Council to pass a resolution making early learning a legislative priority. Fort Worth is one of 19 cities featured in Strong Start for Strong Cities.

“Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do. As one of the fastest-growing large cities in the U.S. we are acutely aware of the demand for a well-educated workforce and know that economic development is uniquely tied to education. In Fort Worth, the movement to prioritize early education has grown from an idea to a collective movement involving business, non-profit, education and city leaders,” Mayor Price said.

A win for businesses.

A 2004 Cornell University study shows that American businesses lose more than $4 billion a year, when adjusted for today’s dollars, due to employees’ problems with childcare, and that productivity went up when workers had stable, high-quality care for their children.

Additionally, when looking for places to locate or expand their companies, businesses take into account the local environment. A city that has a strong education system, a well-educated workforce, and a high quality of life which includes affordable, high-quality childcare and preschool programs allows businesses to attract and retain well-qualified employees.

The Strong Start for Strong Cities guide makes clear that implementing sustainable, affordable, high-quality early learning programs requires the input of a variety of stakeholders including parents, educators, local businesses – and, most importantly, city leaders who can connect them all and provide a framework from within which they can work.

To connect with the YEF Institute to learn more about affordable, high quality early learning programs, contact Katie Whitehouse at whitehouse@nlc.org. To connect with parents who want to work with their local leaders, contact Nina Perez at StrongCities@MomsRising.org.

todd wilson headshotAbout the Author: Todd Allen Wilson is the Senior Staff Writer at the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.