At its June annual meeting, the U.S. Conference of Mayors will vote on a resolution to support a national commitment to building an Early Learning Nation by the year 2025. Cities are engaging in some of the country’s most innovative early childhood work, and the resolution provides an opportunity to call attention to the role that local communities can play in ensuring children have the opportunity to realize their potential.
What is the Early Learning Nation Resolution?
It’s unclear who first coined the term “early learning nation,” but the Bezos Family Foundation has made it its mantra. “We want an early learning nation that takes advantage of the rich science that is being discovered daily. We want it to shape policy, but we also want it shape lives,” foundation president and co-founder Jackie Bezos says in the report, Making Economic Security a Family Tradition.
The Mayors’ proposed resolution pays homage to the science and recognizes the importance of both community-based policies and practices.
“The U.S. Conference of Mayors supports a movement committed to engaging every community and particularly parents and caregivers in daily brain-building moments with their children . . . The U.S. Conference of Mayors supports designating the decade of 2015 – 2025 as an era of community focus in building an Early Learning Nation . . .”
Let’s get all of our Mayors to endorse this Resolution! In North Carolina, there are 31 mayors who are members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Click here to see the list along with a phone number and email address for each. Contact your mayor and ask them to:
- Add their name to the resolution by sending their name to Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle, care of Shauna Larsen at Shauna.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cities Are Hubs of Innovation
Leading the charge to pass the resolution is Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. He has taken on early learning as his mission. “There is nothing more morally important that I will do as Mayor in the next four years than creating a high quality preschool program for three- and four-year-olds in Seattle,” Mayor Murray wrote.
Last September, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed the Preschool for All resolution. The city plans to create a high quality, full-day voluntary preschool program for all eligible and interested four-year olds and all three-year-olds from lower income families. The program would be paid for by a property tax, which according to the city, would be cost about $43 a year for the owner of a Seattle home valued at $400,000.
Communities Embrace Collective Impact
In some communities, collective impact is providing a framework for diverse stakeholders to come together on behalf of young children. Wikipedia provides a good definition – “Collective Impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration.”
In Central Texas, the E3 Alliance is convening a cradle to career initiative focused on four priority goals:
- All children enter Kindergarten school-ready.
- Central Texas eliminates achievement gaps while improving overall student performance.
- Students graduate college- and career-ready, and prepared for a lifetime of learning.
- Central Texas, as a community, prepares children to succeed.
Their Blueprint for Educational Change™ reflects agreed upon goals and measurements. Susan Dawson, E3’s president and executive director describes the work as “collaborating with stakeholders using objective data to create a platform for real systemic change.” Click here to watch a video where she explains how collective impact works.
In Cincinnati, the Strive Partnership also is using collective impact. They define their role as a catalyst for:
- Collaborative action around shared priorities and outcomes;
- Building a culture of continuous improvement by using data effectively to drive improved results for children; and
- Aligning the community’s leadership capacity, volunteer resources, and funding to what works for children.
All of these efforts take resources. Funding often comes from multiple sources, including federal, state, local, business and private dollars. Voters are often more than willing to do their part.
- San Antonio: In 2012, San Antonio voters approved a 1/8th of a cent sales tax increase to fund Pre-K education.
- Denver: In 2006, voters approved a 12 cent sales tax on $100 purchases to support a tuition fund for preschool programs.
- Miami-Dade County: In 2008, voters agreed to tax themselves in perpetuity when they approved a Property Tax to fund The Children’s Trust to improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County by making strategic investments in their futures
- Educational Alignment for Young Children: Profiles of Local Innovation City Highlights
- Municipal Leadership for Children and Families in Small and Mid-Sized Cities