Collective Action and Data Sharing to Support Early Childhood Education
Strengthening and investing in the infrastructure of Southern Arizona’s early childhood education systems is critical for the success of our children and our community. The Kindergarten Readiness Change Network shared the continued impact happening in this area at the February C2C Leadership Council meeting.
One of the priorities of the network and several other community partners and coalitions, is taking collective action to increase capacity of high-quality providers to serve more children and families. One of the strategies is ensuring childcare providers that want to be in Quality First, the state’s rating system that also provides coaching, can participate. To increase the number of providers in this program, the Arizona Department of Economic Security funded the elimination of the waiting list for Quality First as part of Arizona’s Child Care Stabilization Plan. Additionally, United Way’s Accelerate Quality is designed to work with programs that are not yet part of Quality First to help them prepare for the initial rating and increase the likelihood of receiving a rating of three stars or above. Two providers have already received a high-quality rating the first time they were assessed.
The Change Network is also leveraging state-wide efforts to gather data to inform policymakers and secure local funding. C2C, First Focus on Kids, and United Way are participating in a project with the National League of Cities called the Municipal Policy Alignment for Early Childhood Success. This learning community brings together staff from communities across the country that are working toward policy changes at a local level to help fund early childhood initiatives. The result of the project was the creation of the Arizona PreK Alignment Team, a statewide group that includes members from Tempe, Tucson, Flagstaff, Yuma, Phoenix, and Mesa – all of whom are implementing or working to implement publicly funded PreK in their communities. This team provided input for the creation of Early Childhood Education scans for each community, short data reports, specifically written to inform Mayors and other local policy makers. The scans are being completed by WestEd with support from Helios, and in collaboration with other stakeholders, such as First Things First Arizona Department of Economic Security. When completed, the scans will be shared with the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable. These scans will not only provide data on the current conditions and economic impact of investing in early childhood education but will also be combined with other local data to inform the next actions steps of the Change Network.
The aligned contributions among community partners and use of data for decision-making has been essential to addressing systems-level barriers to equitable access to childcare and C2C is committed to continuing to support these efforts.