by Shira Hamer, TAB intern Texas's worker shortage, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, often comes at the expense of child care, one of the labor force’s most valuable yet overlooked assets. Parents cannot work without reliable care for their children, and studies show children are better off when they have access to quality early childhood education.
Because a child’s brain rapidly develops during their first five years of life, early childhood education can lead to higher success rates long term. According to the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, providing a quality pre-K experience to three- and four-year-olds who come from low-income households increases their economic, educational, and social success. An enriched preschool program in turn not only helps children achieve their full potential but can also close opportunity gaps and reduce generational poverty. That’s a serious economic equalizer.
As parents opted to stay home with their kids during the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas saw a 62% statewide increase in families pulling out of child care. That placed further constrictions on the workforce. However, even those that wanted to keep their children in child care, had difficulty doing so. Research and advocacy nonprofit Children at Risk cited that 21% of providers closed, leading to a nearly 62% increase of what’s called “child care deserts.”
Stabilization funds from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) appear to be a positive contributor to provider success rates. Data from Children at Risk show 98% of providers that received TWC funds stayed open. Continuing initiatives like this, and increasing reimbursement rates for child care providers, could help ensure Texas parents have access to care.
As Texas’s economy continues recovering from the pandemic, the stark under-resourcing of the early childhood education industry undermines other efforts towards economic growth. Insufficient childcare resources strain the economy, preventing parents from contributing to the workforce, limiting job security for childcare providers, and ultimately sacrificing the child’s development and opportunities for future success. Companies looking to relocate to Texas care about these same things because they want their employees to have the highest quality of life – and the peace of mind that the foundational pieces of a future workforce, educational opportunities, are abundantly available. The TAB team discussed all of this and more at an Early Childhood Education Legislative Briefing by Children at Risk. Texas must continue working to promote and protect early childhood education.