The human brain is amazing, especially during the first few years of life when it is estimated infants make more than one million new neural connections per second. Science tells us that learning begins at birth and that children’s brains are at their most adaptive in those formative early years, setting the foundation for their future.
Science also tells us that when a young child’s brain is at its most malleable, adverse experiences—stress, trauma, or lack of access to high-quality learning—can do prolonged damage. The early months and years of life represent the first of many inflection points when the opportunity to pursue a healthy, happy life is denied to kids.
Less than half of children from low-income families in the United States have access to high-quality pre-K and early childhood programs that could dramatically impact their future, in part because public spending is lowest for kids under three. Imagine the return on investment if we went where the science told us.
Every level of our government can help change that.
Over the last few years, we supported organizations that advocate for unlocking more public funding to build equitable, accessible, high-quality early childhood education and care systems.
Here are a few ways some of our early childhood grantees are tackling this complex challenge at every level of government:
One America, Start Early, MomsRising, Child Care Aware, and WA State Association of Head Start & ECEAP are building advocacy strength in our backyard of Washington state to push for increased state funding and programs. Their collaboration helped lead to the state’s passage of the historic Fair Start for Kids Act in 2021, which - when fully funded - will be one of the most robust investments in state history into our littlest ones.
Similarly, in California, Early Edge California and Advancement Project were both key advocates in passing what will be the nation’s largest state-funded pre-K program in the country, unique in both its reach to families and focus on high quality.
This state-level work is complemented by the national work of the Alliance for Early Success and Impact Fellows, who fund and support state and local advocates across the country to build or elect early childhood champions in their legislatures.
At the city and county level, Children’s Funding Project and Children’s Funding Accelerator support city and county ballot measures to secure local public funding for early childhood education and care.
Federally, First Five Years Fund, The Center for Law and Social Policy, MomsRising, and the Bipartisan Policy Center are working to expand federal funding for early childhood education and care, using data-driven evidence to show that supporting our littlest ones should transcend partisan politics.
We’ve talked about the importance of early childhood investments before, and we will continue supporting organizations that are pushing to build a system of equitable, high-quality early childhood education and care. But philanthropy alone can’t solve this issue. At every level, our country needs to commit significantly more public funding to quality early childhood education. Our kids deserve it.