Washington DC (DC) completed an economic impact of the child care industry report in 2006. The report was undertaken by the University of the District of Columbia Center for applied Research and Urban Policy, CityBridge Foundation and the District of Columbia Early Care and Education Research Consortium in partnership with the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Members of these organizations, along with other city leaders, formed the DC Economic Impact Study Technical Advisory panel. The report became an important document in advancing the growing pre-k movement in DC. Having a better understanding of the ECE system and how all the pieces fit together provided a valuable resource in talking with the business community. It also allowed for reevaluating the child care market and its operations, the consideration of policy options for city preschool investments and furthering efforts to achieve better educational outcomes for children.
The District of Columbia Early Care and Education Research Consortium, formed in 2001, is a volunteer organization of academics, researchers, ECE advocates, providers and city officials housed at the University of the District of Columbia founded in 2001. The consortium’s efforts include strengthening relationships among the ECE community and asking questions that help inform research to assist in increasing quality care and early childhood services in DC. The group has grown from 25 initial members to approximately 75. The group has worked together on three ECE studies in DC. One study focused on parents with children on the subsidy waiting list and how they handled child care needs. As a result of the study, the city appropriated several million dollars to the subsidy budget to eliminate the waiting list. A second study focused on non-traditional child care hours and the third was the Economic Impact Report.
Using Economic Messages
The economic impact message unified different sectors of the ECE field to build a stronger message. It provided a common goal to rally community partners as well as provided data to support long term efforts in ECE. For the City’s Early Care and Education Administration, completing an economic based report provided a more comprehensive understanding of all the components of the ECE system and allowed the message to be framed in a way to appeal to the business community. The Research Consortium was able to consider new research questions that added to their knowledge base and a local philanthropic organization framed the economic impact message through a lens of improving educational outcomes, that supported their long-term ECE agenda. In each case, the economic impact message proved to be a valuable tool in making the case for ECE investment.
Using data really boosted the advocacy position for pre-K among the business community and local officials. Efforts around pre-kindergarten had been ongoing in Washington DC for several years. The release of the economic impact report gave those working on the Pre-K for All DC Campaign a set of local data that strengthened the message about the importance of ECE and created community momentum for a publicly funded system of high quality pre-kindergarten for all 3 and 4 year olds. In addition, the report used previous cost/benefit studies on pre-k programs, along with local data, to incorporate anticipated returns and outcomes of an ECE investment in the District of Columbia.
The creation of the report brought together existing networks, partnerships, and collaborators to craft an economic impact message for DC. The resulting synergy carried through the launch of the report and into the advocacy work around the Pre-K for All DC legislation. The process built on the strength of existing relationships and yielded a report that better positioned the child advocacy community to leverage resources for early education.
Boosting the Economic Power of Early Care and Education: Key Highlights
The Chamber of Commerce and Freddie Mac Foundation co-sponsored the release of the Economic Impact Report. The press conference, held at the national press club, was attended by the Mayor, city council leaders, and the business community -- many of whom offered their support for pre-school programs and funding. The report’s release came at a critical time in the political process for garnering support for increasing pre-k investments. At the event, the council chairperson announced his intent to introduce legislation that would guarantee universal pre-k for 3 and 4 year old children in DC.
In November 2006, the Committee for Economic Development hosted a luncheon forum entitled The Economic Promise of Investing in Pre-Kindergarten for all in Washington DC. The event was attended by more than 130 business, civic and education leaders.
One business engagement strategy that resulted from the report was an expressed interest by the Chamber in working to create a child care provider consortium to help decrease business costs by purchasing in bulk and exploring other shared service options. The Chamber offered their expertise and resources in organizing this effort. Anticipated funding was to be used to support a liaison position at the Chamber to oversee this project. Unfortunately, the identified funder did not come through and efforts are underway to retool this strategy. One possibility being considered is to work in partnership with students attending the business schools in the District. The Chamber remains committed to finding a way to engage with child care businesses.
State and Legislative Actions
On May 6, 2008, the District of Columbia Council passed The Pre-K Enhancement and Expansion Act of 2008 to ensure all 3- and 4-year-olds in the District have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs and includes pre-k as a central component of school reform action. The legislation will allow for the improved quality and access to pre-k education programs.
CityBridge Foundation, is a family foundation that in 2000 began to research the issue of systemic poverty. As a result, in 2006 the foundation launched a five year $8 million Early Years Education Initiative to improve the quality of early childhood education in the District of Columbia.
DC Action for Children works to improve the lives of children and youth through focusing on public policies in five areas of child and youth well-being and government accountability.
Pre-K for All DC is a public education and advocacy campaign launched in 2006 to assure access to Pre-K for all three and four year olds. The website shares the history of the Pre-K movement in the District of Columbia and other information.