Early Childhood Education is the key for our nation’s economic future.
If we don’t create equity in the early education system in the 15th District, many of our communities will never catch up in the modern global economy. We all know that funding education through property taxes is a failing policy for businesses and families alike. Rural school districts suffer while booming communities are able to fund robust education programs. Our children deserve better.
The reality is that our brain develops the most dramatically in the first years of life. Therefore, the federal focus must be directed where it can do the most good.
If we don’t give every child in America the same solid foundation, we’re shortchanging not only their future, but the future of their family, their community, and our country.
This year in yet another massive Omnibus Bill, more funding was secured for a few early education programs, but not nearly enough focused where the need is most. We need funding, teachers, support staff, and facilities for preschool through 2nd grade. This is where many of our rural communities are falling behind, forced to increase class sizes, layoff support staff, and rely on a ‘hope for the best’ mentality with the dedicated teachers that remain.
In Illinois, a day care provider can only care for 8 children on their own. Meanwhile, teachers care for 15, 20, 30 and more children at a time and are required to educate them in 50 minutes. How does this disparity make sense?
Through more consistent, dedicated funding sources for early education, local school districts will be able to reallocate these funds and resources toward curriculum focused on education and training for better paying jobs in their region.
Vocational programs, training programs, and increased dual credit courses from local community colleges and universities will give students more options.
A greater percentage of federal education grants should go directly to local school districts instead of block grants to the states. This will help avoid waste and administrative costs while giving property tax relief locally. The goal is to give our local school districts more control, creating more of a role for the public to engage directly with their school boards, teachers, and administration.
We have to forge better community relationships that bring back accountability, trust, and results.
Finally, food insecurity is an increasing problem throughout the 15th District and rural America. As wages continue to stagnate and bills increase, especially in the face of rising tariffs while Congress sits on the sidelines, working families putting food on the table is a serious concern. As a result, children come to school hungry, making it difficult to learn. Programs like the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) have been filling the gap.
We should increase funding to CACFP, offering more locally sourced meal programs through our schools for our children throughout the year. This can help offset SNAP program cuts that will likely be in the Farm Bill this year so that American’s children and their education and nutritional needs don’t suffer at the hands of Congress. It will also create jobs and boost family farms.
Early Education is the foundation on which a child’s future is built. With a renewed American investment in our children, we will better compete in a global economy, halt the brain drain, and bring better paying jobs back to the 15th District. This is what having a broad, generational vision can bring to America. It is long overdue.