Opinion: Let’s change outcomes for a generation
Children are serious business – our human capital for the future. And it’s heartening that, at a time when the nation has so much trouble coming together, there’s bipartisan consensus that all of our children deserve high-quality education beginning at their earliest years.
It’s become well-known that 90% of a child’s brain is fully developed before the age of 5. The experiences they have, and the connections they make in the earliest years leave a lasting impact. All children deserve to spend their first years being stimulated to think, get along with others and develop the seeds for a productive future.
As a region, if we want to continue to grow, expand our economy and reduce poverty, we have to support our young people – beginning prenatally, through to college and career. And the extraordinarily dedicated women and men who devote their careers to early childhood education are ready, willing and able to make it happen.
A crucial step is creating a system that can meet the need on a large scale while maintaining the highest standards. That’s why we’re very excited to announce that last week the boards of directors of Cincinnati Early Learning Centers (CELC) and Children, Inc. (CI), two high-quality rated early childhood agencies in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, voted to combine the strengths of both organizations and become one. Our new name is Learning Grove.
We believe by joining as a single organization, Learning Grove will heighten the impact CELC and CI has in the region by serving more children, supporting more families, investing in our workforce and advocating for the success of every child.
A widespread, high-quality early childhood education system lifts up the whole community. It ensures, through public funds and other sources, that teachers and staff can make a living wage. It provides 12-month programming for working families, and enables low- and moderate-income families to continue working without fear of losing child care benefits as they move toward self-sufficiency.
For many years, both our organizations worked independently toward those goals. Now, working as one, we will continue our commitment to serve a racially and socioeconomically diverse population of children and families. We will never compromise on practices that are best for children, but we will never stop innovating and advocating for them either.
We see each day that the demand for high-quality child care is far greater than what is currently available and affordable – particularly for infants and toddlers in those vital first 1,000 days of their lives. This is our opportunity to do more and be more. With the necessary financial and policy support, we can end the achievement gap that currently exists before children even enter kindergarten. We can change outcomes for a generation.
As we grow together, join us to support our children’s and families’ futures.
Shannon Starkey-Taylor is CEO of Learning Grove and former CEO of Children, Inc.
Shannon Starkey-Taylor is CEO of Learning Grove.
Patti Gleason is COO of Learning Grove and former president and CEO of Cincinnati Early Learning Centers, Inc.