What Can We Learn from Alabama's 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.
With the 2011 National Business Leader Summit on Early Childhood Investment right around the corner, I wanted to share with you Alabama's story of how business leader involvement made a difference by advocating for level spending in early childhood investments.
Victory in this year's legislative session for advocates of young children meant that the state's pre-k program was level funded, as was Alabama's state children's health insurance program. The Alabama legislature also preserved funding for Child Advocacy Centers. Cuts to other agencies/programs were not as great as anticipated.
Alabama's business leaders on the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and Bob Powers, newly elected to the board of the Alabama Partnership for Children, the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, and chair of the BCA Education Committee, made funding for pre-k a legislative priority, and held firm in the face of a difficult session and objections from education groups. Most of the work to protect pre-k was done through one-on-one meetings, out of the spotlight with leadership of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance.
Alabama participants coming to the Summit this week have all participated in either state or regional summits on early childhood investment - creating awareness and bringing the issues to the forefront in a powerful way. Several are also featured in the Alabama Partnership for Children publication "Early Childhood Development Directly Affects Alabama's Economic Vitality." They represent an excellent cross-section of the state's business leaders, from both rural and urban areas, and they have worked with local and state Chambers of Commerce to adopt a comprehensive strategy on school readiness.
On a side note, these efforts have not gone unnoticed. The US Conference of Mayors named Tuscaloosa the Most Livable City and the Tuscaloosa pre-k program was cited for its impact.
Gail Piggott, Executive Director
Alabama Partnership for Children
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?