A Moment with Dr. Moore

March 23, 2022

A Collective Voice on Capitol Hill

Lawmakers felt the thunder in April 2019, when hundreds of babies, parents and advocates for children converged on Capitol Hill. They had come from around the country to issue an urgent call: make policies that give young children a strong start in life. Paid maternity leave and quality, cost-effective child care and education were essential, the parents implored. And a bipartisan group of lawmakers agreed as they addressed the crowd before the U.S. Capitol Building. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) were there. So were Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) as part of the third annual Strolling Thunder run by the nonprofit child development group ZERO TO THREE.

The event brought together more than 100 members of Congress, who met with families, listened to their stories and heard their call to act on behalf of our youngest kids. “As parents, we must advocate, communicate and collaborate with all agencies serving our babies,” said Anna Atkins, a Strolling Thunder parent from Louisiana. “Our babies’ lives are depending on our voices. Let us continue to speak out about all the things that help our babies thrive.”

This month, the U.S. House of Representatives responded to the parents’ continued pleas by passing a $1.5 trillion bipartisan spending package that includes about $18.4 billion in federal funding for key child care and early learning programs like Head Start. And the measure will help millions of child care providers and low-income families. Still, it doesn’t include most of President Joe Biden’s previous proposals for universal pre-K and subsidized child care. It also lacks any funding to support and train our early childhood teachers, in-demand professionals who have been fleeing the field for better-paying jobs.

The shortage of qualified early childhood teachers is a sweeping, systemic problem that plagues our sector—and it’s only getting more severe. Since the start of the pandemic, the early childhood field has lost more than 160,000 teachers, an alarming figure that points to the need for action. We must work together to recruit more staff, retain those who remain and bring back those who have left. I believe that one way to do this is by expanding the reach of the Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™. That’s because providers who are skilled, qualified and credentialed have more clout to get the respect and pay they deserve, as the Council has long maintained.

We’re going to broadcast our message this month by going into the advocacy arena—a bold, new step for the Council, as I explained in a recent podcast. Next week, we’ll be hosting a Virtual Capitol Hill Day and over 300 educators across the country are going to join us in making a case for the CDA. We’re setting up workshops and webinars for folks who have registered for the event. We’re going to help them prepare talking points and have them practice role playing on how to speak with public officials. We’re even setting up appointments for them to meet with their members of Congress online.

Granted, our early childhood teachers can’t quite compete with the endearing babies who stormed Capitol Hill in their strollers a few years back. But our educators do have compelling stories to tell and we’re passing them on in CDA State Fact Sheets that we’ve compiled. Each sheet conveys the voices of CDA holders, CDA instructors and PD Specialists everywhere from Maryland to Michigan, and Alabama to Alaska. Many of them will be joining us on our Hill Day to talk about how the CDA changes lives.

And their keen sense of commitment comes across in the fact sheets as they describe the impact the CDA has made on them and the children they serve. “The CDA made me understand what was expected of me as an ECE professional. Without it, I don’t think I would be as far as I am in my career,” a Virginia educator named Jerry told us. “I use my CDA knowledge in my classroom every day, and it also qualifies me to be a leader in my field,” said Sherri, an Iowa teacher who joins in many quality improvement efforts funded by her state. She’s an active advocate for our field, and so is Janna, a New York educator who says, “The CDA not only made me think about how I can support the children better but also about how I can do more to support my staff”—a goal that’s led her, too, to speak out for ECE.

“I want to be part of change in my field, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” Janna explains. And a sense of passion like hers can help solve the big problems in our profession. Change begins with one small voice, and the more voices that say the same thing the greater the impact. So, we all need to step up, join the discussion and get our point across to both politicians and the public. They need to know that credentials like the CDA are the keys to better recruitment, better retention and the quality care that families so badly need.

There’s a wide range of ways to do this, the Council has pointed out for years: team up with colleagues to form your own advocacy group, join forces with school boards and other organizations and contribute op-eds to news outlets. You can also join letter-writing campaigns urging public officials to support better child care legislation and invite policymakers to visit your program— tactics we’ve explored in a recent white paper and in our flagship textbook, Essentials for Working with Young Children.

Now we’re taking a bolder approach as we bring our case right to Capitol Hill. We’re going to use our collective voice to tell our story. We’re reaching out to our network of nearly a million CDA holders nationwide and rousing them to take action. Our shared goal is to better the lives of young children and the ECE professionals who serve them. So, we must spread the word about the CDA, a strong lever of change, at this hour of crisis. Now more than ever, public officials need to hear from the well-informed folks who do the daily work in our field. Children and families are depending on us to meet, mobilize and pursue our mission. So, perhaps it’s time to sprint instead of stroll toward our goal of quality, cost-effective child care for all. Together, let’s make our voices resound in the halls of Congress and in communities nationwide.


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