Letters: Early childhood care must be a priority in Park City
A community priority
Of all the issues garnering attention during this election cycle and Park City’s Vision 2020 efforts, science tells us what should rise to the top: early childhood. The greatest opportunity to influence a person’s success and wellbeing begins early when our brains grow faster than at any later point in life. Birth through three years presents a time of both great opportunity and grave vulnerability. Our community must make these earliest years a priority if we want our youngest children, and future leaders, to learn, grow and thrive.
The data makes clear that we are currently missing the opportunity to maximize our kids’ potential. There are significant disparities in kindergarten readiness based on income, minority status, and English language fluency. Those students, however, who attend high-quality pre-schools show substantial academic growth towards kindergarten readiness. According to Park City School District’s 2020 budget, “The greatest academic need in Park City School District is the achievement gap.”
Compounding these educational concerns, early childhood affects Utah’s current and future workforce. Utah has the highest proportion of residents living in a child care desert and the lowest maternal labor force participation of any state. Single parents in Utah on average pay around one-third of their income for center-based infant care, exceeding the cost of tuition for a year at the University of Utah.
We can and must do better.
Investing in high-quality, affordable child care and early childhood education in coordination with parental support and health programs helps close the achievement gap, assist local employers in attracting and retaining their workforce, strengthen school districts, break the cycle of poverty and maximize our collective return on investment. Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economics professor James Heckman details the estimated 13% return on investment for comprehensive, high-quality, birth-to-five early education and finds significant positive multi-generation effects on education, health, employment and civic life. Visit heckmanequation.org to learn more.
This year, the presidential election will bring into focus the priorities of voters and help set the agenda for the next administration, the next Congress and the next term for other policymakers on the ballot. All currently elected officials and 2020 candidates should share their plans to address the big challenges that face the littlest among us, including access to high-quality, affordable child care and early childhood education; parent support; and health care.
Help make early childhood a community priority worthy of investment. Join the Early Childhood Alliance as we work together to provide the best opportunities for children throughout the Wasatch Back to thrive, learn and grow.
Early Childhood Alliance coordinator
Compassion can change lives
Our family attended the free screening of the documentary “The Upstanders” at the Park City Library March 2, and returned home with crucial information.
The film examined causes and effects of bullying, got into how cyberbullying differs from older forms of bullying and used tragic real-world examples to drive home a message about the insidiousness and destructiveness of bullying.
It also offered education and hope, through interviews with doctors, mental health professionals and educators who described programs around the world that are working to reduce bullying. Those professionals offered strategies for children, adults and schools to help kids stay safe, speak up for themselves and others and thrive.
The day after the screening, my sixth-grader was on the phone with her friend when I called her down for dinner. She explained she couldn’t get off the phone because they were “making a plan.”
“A plan for what?” I asked.
“A plan for becoming friends with this kid,” she answered. “There’s a kid who sits alone at lunch every day in the library. After the movie last night, we want to make a plan to be his friend.”
From the seeds planted in the minds of my daughter and her friend to that kid in the library, may compassion ripple outward through our community, our schools and beyond.
Huge thank you to Connect Summit County and Executive Director Deanna Rhodes for offering us all this resource. “The Upstanders” should be required viewing for all kids from middle school on up. It’s already started changing lives in Park City.
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The presidential race is getting most of the publicity. But down-ballot contests are also crucial, writes Nan Chalat Noaker in a guest editorial. That’s why she supports Cheryl Butler in Utah House District 53.