Why Higher Ed Should Advocate for Universal Early Learning Coverage in the 2024 Election


When Bill de Blasio placed universal Pre-K at the forefront of his New York City mayoral campaign in 2013, he signaled a commitment to expanding educational opportunities for all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Currently, full-day pre-K with support for teachers and quality standards is available for free for any family with 4-year-olds. It serves as an example of how political leverage can be mobilized for progress, illustrating how strategic policy decisions can translate into tangible benefits for children and families.

The impact of early childhood education extends far beyond the child — it resonates throughout our communities and shapes the future of our nation. Research consistently demonstrates that investments in early learning yield long-term benefits such as enhanced cognitive development, emotional intelligence, and social skills that form the bedrock of a thriving society. By elevating this issue to the forefront of the national conversation, we can mobilize support for comprehensive policies that address the needs of our youngest learners. This proactive stance not only sets children up for academic success but also mitigates societal challenges such as low literacy rates and disparities in educational attainment.Dr. Marcus A. BrightDr. Marcus A. Bright

Early childhood education is the foundation upon which all future learning is built. By ensuring that every child has access to high-quality early learning experiences, higher education institutions would be advocating for investing in a pipeline of well-prepared, motivated students who are more likely to succeed in their academic pursuits. This, in turn, benefits higher education institutions by attracting a diverse pool of talented individuals who are better equipped to excel in their chosen fields of study.

Higher education institutions can hold a pivotal position in this movement, with a unique opportunity to champion a cause that not only resonates with their core values but also serves their long-term interests. Advocating for universal early learning coverage also provides higher education institutions with the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge research and innovation in the field of early childhood education. By partnering with policymakers, educators, and other stakeholders, universities can leverage their resources and expertise to develop evidence-based practices that improve outcomes for young learners.

Childcare is not just a familial concern; it is a workforce issue that impacts the entire community. More parents can enter the workforce and provide income for their families if the increasing cost of early learning is lifted through legislative action.

Addressing the childcare crisis is a workforce imperative. Childcare holds a pivotal role as a two-generation workforce issue. It acts as a linchpin in both supporting the present workforce and cultivating the future workforce. The impact of childcare gaps reverberates far beyond individual households, they exert a strain on the economy because it diminishes tax revenues and impedes business productivity. The massive repercussions of inadequate childcare are manifest in the exodus of parents from the workforce. This amplifies financial burdens on families and businesses alike. In essence, the childcare coverage gap stands as a formidable barrier to parental workforce engagement and constrains the nation’s capacity for progress and prosperity. Childcare constitutes a critical pillar of our economic infrastructure. When appropriately provided for, it possesses the transformative capacity to unleash our full economic prowess and helps to generate an environment ripe for sustained business growth and resilience.

Moreover, accessibility to quality childcare not only empowers parents to pursue career advancements, but it also facilitates opportunities for educational and vocational skill development. Consequently, disruptions within the childcare and early learning landscape translate into missed prospects for both children and parents. This compounds setbacks in their professional and educational trajectories.

The ramifications of childcare breakdowns extend beyond mere individual impact — they resonate across multiple dimensions and result in diminished tax revenues and reduced household income. With a ripple effect that disrupts economic stability, the nation bears the burden of decreased tax revenues and depleted workforce potential. This epitomizes the far-reaching consequences of unaddressed childcare challenges.

A pivotal aspect of fortifying early learning initiatives lies in the development and sustenance of early childhood educators. By advocating for additional investment in the training, support, and professional advancement of these dedicated professionals, higher education institutions can bolster the quality of early education, stimulate innovation, and cultivate a proficient workforce committed to nurturing the next generation of leaders. Given the broader ramifications and multiple benefits of passing universal early coverage, colleges and universities can be conveners of coalitions with diverse stakeholders, including educators, parents, business leaders, healthcare professionals, and faith-based organizations, to demonstrate broad support for its passage. Additionally, different groups that are aligned or a part of higher education institutions can partner with advocacy groups, nonprofit groups, and community organizations that focus on early childhood education to amplify the message and mobilize support.

The time has come for bold action as we approach the 2024 election, let us heed this call and rally behind the cause of universal early learning coverage. Let us commit to building a future in which every child can thrive. By advocating for universal early learning coverage, we are not simply addressing a policy issue; we are sowing the seeds of a brighter future for generations to come. 

Dr. Marcus Bright is an author and social impact professional.



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