Opinion: California children deserve a better start in life

Silicon Valley is a place of immense wealth, yet almost half of the children here live in households that cannot afford to cover basic needs such as rent, food and health care, according to the 2023 Silicon Valley Index.

These kids are our future. We must refuse to accept this status quo in which hundreds of thousands of children — disproportionately children of color — struggle while there are more than enough resources to help. California policymakers, advocates and philanthropists must dramatically increase investment in early childhood development to ensure that children are receiving the care they need to flourish. We need to do it now.

Despite the proven impact of early childhood development programs, governments chronically fail to invest in them. The United States spends about $500 annually per child on early childhood care, compared to the $14,436 average spending of other countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Philanthropic investment is also lagging. Silicon Valley Community Foundation surveyed 150 Bay Area foundations and philanthropists and found that only 15% donated to support early care and learning. It’s no wonder the San Mateo County Office of Education recently found there is a shortage of over 17,000 childcare spaces for children 12 and under in the county. And in Santa Clara County, 570 childcare businesses have closed since 2020.

Childhood poverty has well-documented effects and is linked with housing and food insecurity, lack of access to health care, lower academic achievement and decreased lifetime earnings. But investment in early childhood development can break this cycle. Studies have shown that children who experience high-quality learning and care in their first five years of life are 25% more likely to graduate from high school and four times more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree or higher. One study found that early childhood intervention led participants to have 37% higher average earnings as adults.

In SVCF’s survey of Bay Area donors, we found the lack of funding for early childhood development stemmed, in part, from a lack of donor awareness. But philanthropy will never take the place of robust public sector funding, nor should it. Solving this crisis will require state and federal legislative efforts to address the root causes of poverty. One promising development is the recent approval by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to invest $20 million of American Rescue Plan funds in the county’s childcare infrastructure. In the meantime, local philanthropists and lawmakers can help:

• First, philanthropists can support advocacy efforts that lead to greater public sector funding and/or new policies that invest in programs to scale. For example, organizations such as Build Up San Mateo, Parent Voices California and Child Care Law Center are advocating for the importance of public investment and policies that support young children and the people that care for them.

• Second, they can fund programs that meet the most urgent needs. Community-based organizations such as Izzi Early Education and Educare California …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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