Associate Manager, Early Childhood Education
October 27, 2022
On September 29 and 30, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2022 Early Childhood Education Summit in Denver, Colorado providing an opportunity for business leaders, providers, and early childhood advocates to discuss and analyze child care through a state-and-federal policy lens. The summit was arranged around four topics: federal funding, state-led innovation, political and philosophical approaches to child care on Capitol Hill, and the business case for early childhood education. I spoke with Aaron Merchen (Education, US Chamber of Commerce & Director, Policy & Programs, Early Childhood Education, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation) who led the summit and worked with the state and regions toward identifying early childhood priorities and creating actions to address those priorities to policymakers.
SS: The U.S. Chamber’s Early Childhood Education Summit was about empowering business leaders to engage with policymakers about the critical role child care plays in economic success and building a strong workforce. What were your biggest takeaways from the Summit?
AM: I think it’s very exciting to have so many business leaders, providers, and employers invested in and prioritizing child care as a workforce issue. We spoke with over two dozen Chambers about state and federal child care policy leading up to the Summit and had 14 different state and local Chambers represented in Denver, along with several employers and providers. While each state and region shared their own stories specific to their communities, there were common themes that emerged, like the need for federal support but with state-level autonomy, strengthened tax policies that working parents, providers, and employers can utilize to address their child care needs, and a consensus that the early childhood community and business community are stronger and more effective when they’re actively collaborating on addressing child are issues.
SS: This year, several states have shown what can happen when the business community, child care providers, and policy makers work together. What are a few examples that stood out?
AM: Many states have taken big steps in the last year to address their local child care challenges and a big theme of the Summit was identifying ways to harness that state-level energy and bring it to the 118th Congress next year. A few examples include Kentucky and Michigan, state-and-local Chambers of Commerce have been instrumental in working with providers and policymakers to create public-private partnerships to address affordability issues for working parents. In Missouri and Colorado, in addition to identifying ways to increase public investment in child care, these two states have created state-level departments specific to child care and early education.
SS: We heard during the summit from Dan Wuori (Senior Director, Early Learning at the Hunt Institute) and Linda Smith (Director of the Early Childhood Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center) about the history of federal child care funding. Federal funding for early childhood education is not just crucial to improve the quality of education for children, but crucial for parents who are currently working and parents who are looking for work. What federal mechanisms are currently in place to support the child care sector?
AM: This is an excellent question and I’ll point our loyal readers to this blog post for a primer on existing platforms and tax credits that exist and that may be built upon or expanded after the election.
SS: Abby McCloskey (Founder, McCloskey Policy LLC) and Kuna Tavalin (Partner, Stride Policy Solutions) discussed the different political and philosophical approaches to child care. Can you talk about the importance of messaging early childhood priorities to state policymakers and the 118th Congress?
AM: Abby and Kuna’s panel was an excellent showcase in the different ways policymakers approach child care. I think the most important thing heading into the elections and a new Congress is to remember that while they may disagree on the best approach, leaders in both parties agree child care is an important pillar in our economy and society and that the status quo is not working. We look forward to continuing to work with parents, providers, employers and policy makers to identify bipartisan solutions and create a stronger, more equitable child care system that meets the needs of all involved.