Access to affordable child care and education are two social determinants of health that state leaders are working to address in Virginia. Today and tomorrow, the legislators of House Committee on Education and Senate Committee on Education and Health discuss possible solutions to the Virginia Education Summit 2021, which is hosted by the Hunt Institute at Old Dominion University.
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In the opening panel, “Early childhood | Improving outcomes for Virginia’s youngest children, experts have identified a dilemma in child care and education in the Commonwealth. The pandemic has had serious consequences for children’s learning. According to Lisa howard, CEO of E3: Elevate Early Education, 52% of children in the state enter kindergarten with underdeveloped skills in math, literature, social skills, or self-regulation.
Jenna conway, head of school readiness at the Virginia Department of Education, says one possible solution is to provide children with different ways to experience early childhood education and care.
The ministry has endeavored to expand the Virginia Preschool Initiative as well as a mixed birthing program, which offers a preschool experience in a private setting or in a more convenient location. Conway said:
“We have tried to be extremely thoughtful over the past four years on how to grow up in a way that fits families’ preferences, respond to groups that have generally struggled to access kindergarten and how to grow up. ‘ensure this level of quality. “
Lower compensation for child care providers and educators contributes to high turnover rates, according to panelists. They described common cases during the pandemic where child care providers often quit their jobs to work in a retail store or restaurant for higher income.
The lack of child care is also affecting Virgins who are trying to return to work after the pandemic, according to Conway.
“We are now hearing families say they want to go back to work. They are so excited that the schools are back in person, but they can’t find a daycare. So if we want a full economic recovery in the Commonwealth from the pandemic, we need to address and support the recovery of the child care industry. “
A possible solution for the workforce, a direct incentive to educators, is already in place and seeking to expand. Currently, the department offers educators an annual raise of $ 1,500, or 75 cents an hour, which Conway says has reduced turnover rates from 25% to 13%. The department is now looking to increase the incentive to $ 2,000 per year.
Panelists agreed, however, that longer term solutions are needed in the childcare and education sector. Other solutions discussed in the panel included allocating additional federal and state funds to subsidy programs for child care, implementing a performance-based payment model, and re-evaluating information from the childcare provider. identification of child care workers.