Georgia is currently finalizing its state economic impact report. The project, which began in January 2007, is a partnership between the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, the University of Georgia, and Georgia State University. Other child advocacy organizations from across the state are also engaged as part of the report team. Part of the economic impact research report includes a survey of child care providers, which will provide needed information on the child care workforce including wage rates. There is interest in generating county level data as part of the report, however the 159 counties creates a difficult task. Consideration is being given to compiling data for the 14 Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies that would provide regional data. A draft of the report has been submitted to the advisory committee for review and comment. It is anticipated that the report will be released in summer of 2008. The economic impact report is expected to assist the state as it assesses the 10-year impact of the pre-k program and plans future investments.
Using Economic Messages
Georgia is a national leader in efforts to provide pre-kindergarten for its young children, having realized early on that investment in early childhood education is good economic and social policy. In looking forward, those engaged in efforts to improve the well-being of children in Georgia are working to broaden the conversation to include children from birth through five. The economic impact message is one tool in helping to change the dialogue and to inform policy makers about the need to invest in children at an early age.
Bright from the Start, the State Department of Early Care and Learning, anticipates working with the economic impact research and an advisory team to host information sessions and presentations with the business and community leaders to educate them on the economic impact of child care in the state. One goal is to share with the larger community the financial impact of ECE at a regional level and where it falls as an industry in the continuum of state economic sectors. In addition, Voices for Georgia’s Children is working to develop a companion policy piece for the report that answers the question - What does the report and the data mean in terms of making investments in young children in Georgia?
Using additional economic data to support the position of increased ECE investments is a strategy being employed by Georgia’s ECE advocates. Voices for Georgia’s Children uses a broad set of economic indicators to underscore their advocacy work on behalf of children and have done so for many years. Most traditional economic indicators rank Georgia as strong compared to other states and its southern neighbors. However, the most cited indicators of child outcomes and well-being consistently rank Georgia among the bottom performers. The data show a mismatch between the economic well-being of the states and well-being of the children. These comparisons and this economic message about the return on investment are part of the organization’s zero to five agenda. This work is highlighted in their recently released report entitled Compounding Interest Why ZERO TO FIVE is an Investment worth Making.
Advocates are working to translate the return on investment framework into short term benefits to illustrate how investments in the ECE industry made through better business practices or government action will benefit all Georgians. This shift from ling-term to short term benefits resulted from recent legislative feedback that suggested that policy makers are concerned with short term investments and outcomes in considering policy action.
Boosting the Economic Power of Early Care and Education: Key Highlights
In 1990 the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education was established. This partnership of business, government, education, and community leaders focuses on improving public education in Georgia. They use the economic impact message to inform education policy in the state for both ECE and k-12 education. Their recent report The Top Ten (Education) Issues to Watch in 2008 includes zero to five education as its first issue. The Partnership also created an Economics of Education briefing that they present across the state in partnership with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Twelve cities were on a state-wide tour and more are planned. The briefing focuses on the strong connection between education (including ECE, and economic prosperity). Target audiences for the briefing include business, government, education, and community leaders.
The United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta plays an important role in advancing the ECE agenda and connecting with the business community. In 2006, they brought together business, government and community leaders to establish the Early Learning Commission led by three prominent business people: chairperson Dorothy Yates Kirkley, partner at Kirkley & Hawker, LLC and co-chairs Robert L. Brown of R L Brown Associates and Phil Jacobs of BellSouth Communications. The commission developed a multi-year strategic plan they are beginning to implement.
The United Way is also a key partner in Smart Start Georgia established in 1999 as the Georgia Early Learning Initiative. It was tasked with creating a long-term plan to increase school readiness. The organization is a public private partnership among the State of Georgia, the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, and United Ways of Georgia, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and more than 40 additional organizations. The program changed its name in 2003 to better match it goals of helping children get to school ready to learn.
State and Legislative Actions
The 2008 Legislature approved a House Study Committee on Georgia’s Pre-k program to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the current program. There is increased interest from the legislature in understanding the economic impact and the outcomes resulting from this significant investment in early education.
The 2008 Legislature considered a bill to expand the Georgia Pre-K program to include 3-year olds. House Bill 939 would have created a voluntary program using dollars from lottery reserve funds. The bill did not pass.
The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education is a non-profit founded in 1990 whose members include business, education, community and government leaders. Efforts of this organization are to advocate and educate state leaders through research and information on education policy strategies. Further information and materials are available on their website.
Voices for Georgia's Children works to improve the well-being of children in the areas of health, safety, education, connectedness and employability. The organization advocates to state leaders for investment in children and is part of the team working on the Georgia Economic Impact of Child Care Report.