A Moment with Dr. Moore

March 26, 2021

Help is on the Way

We’ve seen the signs of renewed respect for our early childhood teachers in recent weeks. Late last month, Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam paid a visit to a vaccination clinic in Manassas Park to hail our field for its heroic efforts. “Early childhood educators,” she said, “have truly been unsung heroes throughout this pandemic, allowing other frontline workers to remain on the job.”

Virginia’s early childhood educators were among those deemed essential workers in April of 2020, and the state has also acknowledged their value by making them part of Phase 1b, a high-priority group in Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. The only hitch was many early childhood teachers in the state didn’t realize they were eligible for the vaccine so soon.

A similar issue arose in Los Angeles County, California, where child care workers were able to sign up for the vaccine starting March 1. So, the county put a new vaccination plan in place to keep teachers in the loop and make it easier for them to get the shot. “Child care workers will have a dedicated vaccination site opened for them at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, along with specific early child care and education days at the LA County large-capacity vaccination sites,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county public health director, when she announced the plan.

It was news that ended a year of worry for Jeannette Romero, executive director of Pasadena Day Nursery for Child Development. “I’m actually really excited,” she enthused. “You get my true reaction because I had not heard that!”

Now early childhood workers nationwide can share Romero’s sense of relief. President Joe Biden has told states that haven’t yet prioritized child care workers for the vaccine to do so right away. And his directive was concrete recognition of the vital role our early childhood teachers play. “We know that child care programs and early childhood education are essential to healthy childhood development,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky at a White House press briefing. “The services these programs offer are important for working parents and provide a safe, stable and nurturing environment for kids to get them ready for school and develop critical social and emotional skills.”

These flattering words come with a big financial investment since the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law on the 11th of this month, will give some much-needed relief to the early childhood field. The plan will provide $150 billion to the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, along with $39 billion to make child care more affordable and help programs stay open despite low enrollment. In addition, the plan will provide $1 billion to Head Start programs, which play such a critical role in building equity as they give care and education to our nation’s most vulnerable children.

This infusion of funds has inspired applause from leaders in the early childhood field. “The American Rescue Plan is a critical lifeline to save child care, an essential service for families and young children,” said Chad Dunkley, CEO of new Horizon Academy and Kinderberry Hill Child Development Centers. “This legislation is another indication of how essential the child care sector is to a healthy economy,” said Mark Bierley, CEO of the Learning Group. “The American Rescue Plan recognizes the importance of child care and is a much-needed leg-up for America’s families who need support more than ever,” said Tom Wyatt, CEO of KinderCare Education.

And I add my own voice to this chorus of praise for the new plan. It will help our ECE providers recover after their struggles of the past year. It’s also a chance to boost pay for the committed members of the early childhood workforce, who are primarily women of color and often poorly paid. Many of these ECE professionals are CDA holders credentialed by the Council, and their concerns are also ours. We are all committed to stabilizing the early childhood sector, and this funding will be an important part of that effort. The American Rescue Plan Act will renew our field at a time when we need it most. Help is on the way.

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