When we support early childhood education, everyone benefits

During the Month of the Young Child and Teacher Appreciation Week, we can highlight the work and value of our educators and child care providers

BRATTLEBORO — April is the Month of the Young Child in Windham County. It is a wonderful opportunity to both celebrate early childhood and to honor the tireless efforts of child care providers who dedicate their lives to educating the next generation.

Broader awareness about the importance of the experiences a child has in their early years has led to successful initiatives to support public investment in services for young children and their families, including early education.

There is also much greater awareness about the important role early education/child care plays in the lives of those of us who do not have small children.

This is partially due to the fact that child care programs and schools were shuttered during the pandemic and people were not able to work. A day without child care became weeks and months, highlighting how integral it is to economic activity in our community.

High-quality child care also contributes to our youngest citizens getting the foundation they need to be successful in school and beyond. When 80 percent of the brain is developed by age 3 and 90 percent by age 5, we cannot wait until kindergarten to invest in early education.

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This awareness will take time to translate to public investments as policymakers and legislators identify funding mechanisms.

So what can we do in the meantime to support the sector and the dedicated teachers and providers who make it function every day even in the face of receiving some of the lowest wages of any job?

We can let them know how much we understand and appreciate their contributions.

Recently, the Child Care Counts Coalition of Windham County raised money through the Elizabeth Christie Fund to give a cash bonus to eligible early educators who applied.

Messages from these teachers made it clear that the checks were received as intended - our community tangibly letting them know we see them, we care, we appreciate all they do, and that we will keep advocating for them to be paid at a level that acknowledges how important they are.

The first week of May is Teacher Appreciation Week, giving us another chance to express our gratitude with handwritten cards, snacks, gift certificates, supplies - whatever you can imagine, really.

The thought is truly what counts, and letting some of our hardest-working and lowest-compensated teachers know we care is a small act we can do as we work towards a better future for this career.

The economics of child care is challenging. Public investment is required to make this critical sector functional. Otherwise, the only way to better compensate teachers in early education is to raise tuition, which is already unaffordable for many families.

We all benefit when families can participate in the workforce and children get what they need to succeed, so we can all contribute to making child care work for everyone.

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