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Developing a Statewide Coalition on Early Education

The Metro Atlanta Chamber has created a model to convene and unite local businesses, childcare providers, school administrators, and other community leaders to identify what works for their community, increase the state's focus on early childhood education as an economic issue, and advocate with one voice for the right solutions.

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average annual cost of childcare

The Challenge

Based on data presented in the 2018 Opportunity Lost Report, the state of Georgia loses in excess of $100 million in revenue due to employee absences and turnover related to lapses in childcare, amounting to around $1.75 billion in lost activity in the state’s economy. This data doesn’t touch on losses associated with tardiness, early departure from the work day, or lapses in job training or continuing education resulting from an employee’s absence.

The average cost for high-quality childcare in Georgia is almost the same price as tuition at one of the state’s flagship universities at over $9,000 per year. How do you build a culture across a state or region where supporting family-friendly workplaces and state policies that provide additional supports and incentives for families can be seen as a pathway to developing economic resiliency?

The Solution

There is no silver bullet. The Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS), and their partners across the early education network understand that there are many layers to a solution for this challenge. The right supports, resources, and incentives are required across a variety of areas and those needs change from community to community.

Georgia’s political and business leaders have an opportunity to convene and unite local businesses, childcare providers, school administrators, and other community leaders to identify what works for their community and advocate with one voice for those solutions. Together they have created a model for business leadership to increase focus on early childhood education as an economic issue at the state policy level.

Understanding the Landscape

While prior research suggests that the childcare industry generates a significant amount of economic activity in Georgia—$4.7 billion in 2016—less was known about the effect of childcare on parents’ participation in the workforce and subsequent economic impact to the state.

Following earlier work in 2018, the Metro Atlanta Chamber with their partners at GEEARS issued a report that looked at the economic impact childcare issues were having on the state. The report, called Opportunities Lost: How Child Care Challenges Affect Georgia’s Workforce and Economy, showed clear systemic barriers to childcare access and workforce participation and education as a result to breakdowns in care.

The report addressed three general areas:

  1. What long-term disruptions to employment or schooling—such as quitting or significantly changing a job—do parents of children under 5 experience as a result of issues with childcare?
  2. What short-term disruptions—such as missing or arriving late to work or class—do parents experience?
  3. What is the estimated economic impact to the state?

The Coalition

To create an effective movement, the coalition started by establishing a shared understanding about how to best support the resiliency of Georgia’s workforce: supports, resources, and incentives are required across a variety of areas to ensure every family has access to quality, affordable childcare.

Those areas include:

  • Direct support for working parents
  • After-school care for young children
  • Teacher training and support
  • Incentives for business to invest in their employees and communities
  • Wrap-around services for parents who are in post-secondary and work-training programs

The plan for action was focused on coordinated advocacy for state and local policy changes that took many forms. In addition to sharing data, the Metro Atlanta Chamber actively participates in broad coalitions supporting early education, meets regularly with state agencies managing early education issues across the state, and provides the voice of the business community in education campaigns for state policy makers and legislators on the importance of high-quality early education to industry and the state’s economy.

Through these actions the regional chamber has developed and continues to work on building trusted partnerships between the business community, local chambers of commerce, and state and local government.

1 in 5 parents

reported missing more than a full week (6+ days) of work in the past 6 months due to childcare challenges

$1.75 Billion

economic loss related to employee absence and turnover due to childcare challenges

1 in 20 parents

have been fired, a population that is disproportionately rural, single women in low-income households

The Results

The state of Georgia has seen an increased focus on early education at the state policy level. State lawmakers know and speak publicly about businesses that are interested in, and supportive of, strong quality childcare policies. In addition, the partnerships that have been established as a result of this work, such as the partnership between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and GEEARS, have created an increased interest in, and the capacity for, continuing data collection and reporting on these issues across the state.

Next steps? The Metro Atlanta Chamber and GEEARS coalition look forward to gathering data from the business community to start to track how the region’s businesses are using family-friendly policies to support a resilient workforce. The coalition will use this information, along with similar work in post-secondary institutions, and continued research into questions generated from the Opportunity Lost report, to partner with other coalitions and state agencies to advocate for more family-friendly policies at state, local, business and post-secondary levels.

Is this a repeatable model?

Absolutely, though size and scale will vary depending on the type of support available in the community. In Georgia there are childcare providers, both public and private, across the state and county and local chambers of commerce have stepped up to lead this work, taking much of the grassroots burden off of state and regional chambers.

No matter how the recipe comes together in a community, there are a few key ingredients:

  • A business leader, or leaders, to pull the coalition together and champion the movement, driving it forward.
  • Local school administrators and nonprofit partners to support research and data collection.
  • The state’s agency responsible for childcare, or local and regional representatives who can speak for the state.
  • Local, regional, and private childcare providers in the state.

Many states across the country have already started collecting and analyzing data on early education and care, and other states are considering the move. To avoid reinventing the wheel, reach out to state agencies and any existing child advocacy organizations, see what they have accomplished to date, and start where the work has already begun.

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