Pushing for Early Childhood Investments
On July 21 and 22, more than 200 business and civic executives from across the country will come to Boston for the 2011 National Business Leader Summit on Early Childhood Investment. These business leaders will convene to discuss the critical role early childhood policies play in promoting states' short- and long-term economic vitality, new research on the economic development benefits of early childhood investments, and continued advocacy efforts on the part of business leaders in the face of budget cuts in many states. As Summit host, United Way of Massachusetts and Merrimack Valley, in partnership with the Partnership for America's Economic Success, a project of the Pew Center on the States, will bring you early childhood policy stories from throughout the country.
I wanted to share with you a summary of what we did in Virginia to push for early childhood investment with a message of keeping our state economically competitive now and into the future.
The business community throughout the state has embraced early childhood investments as an economic priority for Virginia. This year, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, through its "Virginia Job One" initiative, brought together over 700 business leaders from across the state; the conversation and agenda focused on making Virginia competitive now and into the future. Virginia not only competes with neighboring states, but other countries as well. And many of these other countries are investing heavily in the education of their youth. In this current economic climate, Virginia has not been able to push forward big bold initiatives but it has maintained relatively level spending for the state's pre-k and home visiting programs and restored funding to the Smart Beginnings initiative that is led by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to build an "early childhood system" across Virginia.
At a time when all state expenditures are on the budget chopping block, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and its business leaders worked behind the scenes - talking to lawmakers and educating them on the important role proven early childhood programs play in the state's future economic growth.
With nearly 30 Smart Beginnings initiatives now functioning at the local level, each with business leadership, Virginia Job One has a platform to engage business advocates, and therefore elected leaders across the Commonwealth. Many Smart Beginnings held receptions to build business support and engage lawmakers. The efforts were coordinated by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and local Smart Beginnings initiatives, and typically included engagement of local Chambers of Commerce.
Among a number of strong business led efforts across Virginia is an initiative led by Smart Beginnings of Greater Richmond, through the local United Way. Their efforts have made early childhood investments a top economic and workforce priority for the Capital Region Collaborative, a collaboration of business leaders and policy leaders throughout the Richmond area. Much of the work done by business leaders was on a one-to-one basis with lawmakers.
Governor Bob McDonnell has been mostly supportive of early childhood investments; he co-chairs the National Governors Association's Education and Workforce subcommittee and has sought the advice of business leaders throughout Virginia on early childhood investments. His administration has been actively involved with integrating early childhood into workforce planning.
Scott L. Hippert
Virginia Early Childhood Foundation
Share your state's story with us, what tactics did you use to push for early childhood investments in your state, and how did you recruit business leaders to join you in your efforts?