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March 2015 Early Childhood Care and Education

The following resolution was passed unanimously at the March 10, 2015 JCRC Council Meeting.

This resolution has been approved by the JCRC Board for consideration and vote by the JCRC Council at the March 10 JCRC Council meeting.

Jewish tradition emphasizes that raising and educating children are among our greatest obligations. In addition, we have long known that improving early childhood care and education for those of low income has a direct correlation to reducing poverty and inequality, also a core concern in Jewish teaching. The words of Deuteronomy emphasize the importance of reducing poverty, stating “There shall be no needy among you.”

Neuroscience research shows that prenatal nutrition and healthcare and the care and education of children from birth to age five are the most important determinants of a child’s future productiveness and success in school and later in life. This is the time period in which children develop critical linguistic and cognitive skills as well as social and emotional competence skills essential for later socio-economic success.

To be most effective, quality early child care and education (ECCE) programs should include:
• Access to quality, affordable health care and proper nutrition for parent and child.
• Early stimulation and education for young children (including home-based stimulation, preschool, playgroup and day care).
• Education and support of parents, including expectant parents, in parenting skills, and the importance of proper healthcare and nutrition.

Leading economists have concluded that these programs are an urgently needed, cost effective means to fight poverty and improve economic development because:
• The ability gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged opens up very early in a child’s life.
Children who receive high quality early childhood education and care are less likely to drop out of school or commit crimes, more likely to graduate from high school and college, with a better chance to find gainful employment and achieve greater success in life.

State and federal government do not invest sufficient resources in quality early child care and education. Many low-income families are unable to find quality, affordable and accessible childcare facilities for their pre-school age children. Missouri’s child care subsidy rate paid to providers is one of the lowest in the nation—about 43 percent less than the average market rate for child care in the St. Louis area. In addition, downsizing and reorganization of the Family Support Division of the State Department of Social Services has made it increasingly difficult for families eligible for government child care subsidies to actually obtain them. All of these obstacles make access to early child care and education less available to those who need it most.

Therefore, the Jewish Community Relations Council supports taking the following action steps:
• Educate the Jewish community , the general public and public officials about the effectiveness of very early, quality ECCE programs for all low-income and underserved children as a means of reducing poverty and improving overall economic development in the region and in the state.
• Advocate for legislative and administrative action at the Federal level to create and implement quality ECCE programs from prenatal to age 5 to serve more families in need.
• Advocate for legislative and administrative action by the state of Missouri to protect, restore and increase its investment in ECCE by, among other things, increasing child care assistance (subsidy) reimbursement rates from current levels and increasing staff levels at the Department of Social Services so that those eligible to receive government subsidies are able to have their applications timely processed and approved.
• Participate in coalitions with other local, state and national faith, community and non-governmental organizations that work to improve access to high quality, affordable ECCE.
• Engage political and community leaders to work toward making high quality, affordable ECCE available to all through education, service and advocacy.
• Support JCRC and its Community Against Poverty (CAP) coalition with its programmatic efforts to create better opportunities for high quality early childhood care and education.

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