The America Forward Coalition includes organizations that provide diverse supports to thousands of young children and families across the country. Through our wide range of supports and programs, we know firsthand the importance of a strong start that supports a child’s healthy development, creativity, joy of learning, and pre-academic skills. Moreover, we know that access to comprehensive, high-quality early learning and affordable childcare can offer working families critical support, enabling them to achieve economic security. In short, we believe that early learning done well can change the lives of children, families, and communities. We are educators, advocates, case managers, and organizers, and our organizations, while they may vary in approach, all reflect one central purpose: to ensure that every student, whatever his or her background, receives a first-class education that opens doors to economic prosperity and a successful life. We know that it is critical to start early and ensure that young children and families receive high-quality supports and experience student-centered learning environments at the youngest ages.
We believe in a vision of an early learning system, comprehensive and diverse in settings and approaches, and centered on the needs of every child from birth to school age. We are driven by the vision of a system that embraces a holistic and multi-generational approach to early learning and views parents and caregivers as partners, positioned to support their child’s healthy growth and development, and provide every child with the developmental foundation for success in K-12 education and beyond.
This system must include a focus on evidence-based early learning programs that help to build cognitive and social-emotional skills aligned with school success and that lead to school readiness, defined by appropriate, comprehensive outcome measurements. It must also be supported and strengthened by innovative, high-quality community and cross-sector partnerships that bring vibrant student-centered programming into early learning settings and address disparities in resources.
We are committed to building an early education workforce in which educators are afforded rewarding career paths with rigorous professional development and living wages that compensate their critical work and elevate the profession. It is critical that the workforce reflects the communities served and is well equipped with the practical experience, skills, tools and resources necessary to recognize children’s strengths, needs and learning challenges.
In this system, the government has a role to play. Our commitment to early learning should be supported by meaningful Federal, State and public/private investments with a particular focus on supporting evidence-based programs in all of the places they exist – including center-based and home care provider settings. Federal policy and robust investments should promote and accelerate innovation and evidence to help ensure that all students have access to high-quality programming and care.
Our collective goal is clear, ambitious and critical: every child in America enters K-12 with the academic skills, emotional supports, strong adult relationships and stability they need to succeed in school and in life.
Our work together is to address the issues of quality and access in the current early learning system that we need to tackle to make our goal a reality. Early learning alone is not a great equalizer—but expanding access to high-quality early learning opportunities, in all the settings where children learn and grow, is a critical place to start.