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Investments in early childhood education bring a return of more than 4:1, higher than any other investment in education. For every dollar spent, four come back to the community in more productivity and more savings.
In 2017, a group of over 25 individuals and organizations came together to consider a strategy for investing in early childhood education in Wabash County. They created an initiative called First Five Wabash County, led by the Community Foundation, that improves access to care, affordability, capacity, and quality of early childhood education in our communities. First Five also created a website for the public where employers, families, and early childhood programs can find important information on early education.
First Five Wabash County has attracted nearly $500,000 in private, state, and federal grants to meet strategic goals and to support innovations in the business model for early education. Additional grant support from the Community Foundation and Wabash County United Fund leverage substantial investments in raising the overall quality ratings of Wabash County programs.
Since 2017, the number of seats in programs with a quality rating has doubled, more caretakers have earned a credential, and there is more collaboration among programs, which increases efficiency and reduces the high cost of childcare.
The Community Foundation recently received a Stronger Together grant from Early Learning Indiana, which will support First Five’s plan to create an innovative, sustainable business model for early childhood by sharing administrative costs, lowering overhead, bringing fees into alignment with costs, and better compensating certified staff.
But educators, businesses, and local governments are committed to helping us increase our supply of care. Childcare is not only great for child development, it is essential to parents who need to work and employers who depend on childcare for attracting and retaining valuable workers. Quality childcare even improves the tax revenues for communities. Community investment in early childhood education is critical to economic development in our communities.
In addition to building more capacity to serve children, First Five is committed to greater quality in early education programs. The benefits of early education rest on quality teaching and quality environments where children’s brains can grow and develop in preparation for a lifetime of learning. What they don’t use, they lose! To encourage early education programs to continuously improve their quality, the coalition created Thrive In Five, a professional growth group that connects early childhood educators with kindergarten teachers. These educators rely on each other to understand how to shape pre-school programs that produce children who are ready to learn in school.
Thrive in Five meets three times each year to participate in trainings, review early learning standards, learn about best practices in the classroom, evaluate programs, practice assessment methods, learn about abuse and trauma, and adjust programs to produce better student outcomes year to year. With a grant from Early Learning Indiana, Thrive in Five has created an easy-to-use assessment tool for early educators and kindergarten teachers to improve the transition of children from preschool to k-12 school. Early childhood programs that focus on social emotional skills in preschool are much more likely to produce students who are ready for academic learning in kindergarten.
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