The Bipartisan Policy Center today released the Early Learning Facilities Policy Framework, which calls attention to the need for increased investment in early childhood facilities. The policy framework recognizes that the quality of the physical buildings and spaces where children learn, play, and grow are a fundamental part of their development and learning.
There are over 129,000 center-based early care and education programs serving nearly 7 million children nationwide and another 1 million in-home providers who care for 2.7 million children. Although research on facility quality is scant, one investigation across 10 states conducted by the federal Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the Inspector General found that 96 percent of child care facilities had at least one health or safety violation. Similarly, both Massachusetts and Rhode Island have conducted statewide assessments which have found issues around air quality, cleanliness, and outdoor safety. The Environmental Protection Agency found that approximately 500,000 child care facilities are not even regulated for lead in drinking water.
This new policy framework, a joint effort of BPC and 20 other organizations, articulates the major principles critical to policy development for early learning facility investments. “Investments in early learning facilities—both center-based and home-based care—are an investment in communities themselves, and support children, parents, and businesses alike,” said Linda Smith, Director of BPC’s Early Childhood Initiative.
“The physical infrastructure of early learning environments has been neglected, and each sector—federal, local, and state government along with the faith, business, and philanthropic communities—can play a distinct role in supporting quality improvement efforts,” said Nicole Barcliff, Policy Director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
As part of moving this work forward, BPC is exploring how Opportunity Zones, a new economic development incentive created as part of the 2017 tax law, can be used as a vehicle for investing in early learning facilities, especially in these designated under-resourced areas. The goal is to ensure that the nation’s children are being cared for in early learning facilities that exceed basic standards and are effectively promoting their health, safety, and development.