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Press Release Courtesy of Montgomery County Government.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, County Councilmember Nancy Navarro, Montgomery College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard and Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith today highlighted the gains achieved in year one of the Early Care and Education (ECE) Initiative. They also presented a detailed action plan for the next three years.
The ECE action plan is aimed at significantly increasing access and affordability to quality early care and education for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in the County. The Initiative, a partnership with the County Council, MCPS and Montgomery College, received $7 million in County funding for the first year. The ECE Initiative was launched in March 2019.
“Prior to the severe hardships that COVID-19 created for parents and providers alike, we were able to make great strides in expanding the number of available seats and creating critical partnerships. The Action Plan, developed by the Initiative workgroups and stakeholders, is meant to provide a blueprint for continuing to move this agenda forward over the next three years,” said County Executive Elrich. “However, given the impact of the pandemic, we will focus our efforts first on recovery for existing early childhood programs. We will follow with an emphasis on the development and sustainability of a system of early care and education and on access to high-quality, affordable child care for families.”
The goal of the first year was to increase the number of quality early care and education seats in a variety of settings (family child care, center-based child care, and schools) by recruiting additional family child care providers and identifying partnership opportunities with MCPS and Montgomery College, thus making quality child care more accessible to more families. With this immediate goal in mind, the initiative focused its year one efforts in:
- Expansion of early childhood education seats;
- Increased access to and affordability of quality early childhood education;
- Sustainability of existing early childhood education programs;
- Alignment of partnerships to identify and knock down barriers;
- Monitoring Kirwan Commission recommendations to ensure alignment with potential statewide imperatives; and
- Developing an action plan for the next three years.
“As the author of the framework that created the ECE Initiative, I’m thrilled of its progress as it affirms my belief that high quality, accessible, and affordable early care and education opportunities can be available to all parents in our county, especially underserved populations whose children are not being adequately prepared for kindergarten and who are economically impacted by a lack of access to opportunities. This is both an Economic Imperative and a Racial Equity and Social Justice issue,” said Councilmember Navarro.
Moving forward, the County government and its partners at MCPS and Montgomery College will focus on key ECE Initiative priorities along with continued support for recovery efforts:
- Provide new and ongoing resources to sustain partnerships and high-quality early childhood education across settings;
- Provide ease of access and affordable options for families with children infants through age five;
- Create partnerships and alignment of services for ease of access for families of young children, early educators and the public;
- Expand the supply and options for high quality early education programs in multiple settings; and
- Examine and advise on potential revenue sources to sustain and expand child care access.
“The pandemic has reinforced the urgent need to expand early childhood education opportunities for all our students,” said MCPS Superintendent Dr. Smith. “We must focus on children who may not have resources to access early learning independently.”
According to the Montgomery County Early Child Care and Education Strategic Plan 2017, Montgomery County is home to more than 76,000 children under the age of six. About 30,000 (roughly 40 percent) of Montgomery County’s youngest children are economically vulnerable, which means they live below 300 percent of the federal poverty level (below $71,550 for a family of four). Local data for the 2018-2019 school year show that only 54 percent of kindergarteners demonstrate readiness.
“Montgomery College provides a variety of early childhood programs, including degrees, certificates, and credentialing programs – both in English and Spanish,” said Montgomery College President Dr. Pollard. “I am proud of our contributions to expand access to childhood education and care, as well as promoting a more sustainable system. These are especially critical as we strengthen the local economy in the wake of COVID-19.”
For more information about the ECE Initiative and to view the full report, visit the Early Care and Education Policy website.