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Why did three Georgia companies merit placement on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For?  Because they support child care for their employees, including summer camps in some cases.  AFLAC, Alston & Bird, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta joined number one ranked SAS, Inc. in North Carolina in offering on-site or accessible quality child care as part of the employment package.  Other child and family-friendly benefits were also detailed in the article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Jan. 21.

If Georgia wants to be seen as a great place to work, ensuring access to quality childcare for families in our workforce is a good place to start.  During the hard economic times of the last two years, Georgia had the benefit of $47 million in federal stimulus funds to eliminate the waiting list for child care subsidies and to help 600 child care centers improve the quality of their programs.  With the loss of those stimulus funds, 10,000 families will be without access to quality care for their kids. 

What will happen?  to the children? to the employees? to employers?  We are likely to see more latchkey kids, more employee absenteeism and lower productivity.  Solutions?  Public/private partnerships, tax credits for employers, child care tax credits for families, and expanding Georgia PreK .

Maybe we can’t do everything at once but let’s start planning for the future.  The greatest innovations and the most effective solutions are born out of hard times.  Let’s seize the opportunity!

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

A new Congress comes in January but the current Congress has work to do.  Our children are waiting for us to meet our commitments to them.  All they are asking for is a healthy meal, a nurturing environment, and a solid education.  Surely we can deliver!

Let’s start with a healthy meal.  Our current Congressmen have returned to Washington this week with lots on their plate (pun intended!).  Beyond the important economic issues that dominate the airwaves is the equally important issue of reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act.  Almost 1.3 million Georgia Children depend on this for school lunches and other meals.  Your Congressman in the U.S. House needs to hear from you about getting this done by December 31.

Kids also need quality care while Mom and Dad work and early education programs to help them get ready to read.  The federal appropriations bill can ensure that 300,000 little ones get the continuing benefit of Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and Early Learning Challenge Grants.  Add this to your talking points with your Congressmen.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

The next constellation in the public policy sky may look like a baby crib.  This week two powerful organizations with strong business representation publicly underscored the need to invest in very young children.  Without it, they agree, we will not achieve higher graduation rates and work-ready young adults.  Furthermore, our businesses and government, meaning ultimately consumers and taxpayers, will pay more later.

On Monday the United Way Early Education Commission released its recommendations after 18 months of study.  Led by Dennis Lockhart, chair of the Atlanta Fed, and Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman, the Commission was clear that young children from birth to five must be a priority for Georgia, meaning that we must invest so that children are ready to learn by kindergarten and “reading to learn” by third grade.

Today, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education emailed the third edition of Economics of Education.  Introduced by a letter from the executives of GPEE and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the report lays out three critical issues related to success in education and workforce development.  The first issue, Early Life Experiences, included not only the need for our Georgia PreK program but for infant and maternal health, quality child care and family supports.

Before we “race to the top” in our K-12 schools, let’s be sure we get in shape before the starting line.  Healthy and ready preschoolers will make the race a whole lot easier.

Pat Willis, Executive Director, Voices for Georgia’s Children

FROM THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S LAW CENTER

Today thousands of advocates are joining together to “March Forth” in support of increased funding for child care, Head Start and child nutrition. This year’s action theme — “Families Earning, Children Learning” — reminds Congress of the importance of these programs for children, parents and our economic recovery.

Take action today by calling or e-mailing Congress.

To call your Members of Congress, use the script below and dial toll-free at 1-888-460-0813. The operator who answers the phone will ask which Senator or Representative you would like to speak to. To find out who your Senators and Representative are, search our directory.

When you’re connected with their offices, tell the staffers who answer the phone:

  • Hi, my name is __________. I’m a constituent. (If you are also a parent, child care provider, community leader, etc., feel free to mention that as well.)
  • I am calling because I believe child care, Head Start and child nutrition are essential programs for children and families. I urge the Senator/Representative to support the increases for these programs proposed in the President’s budget.

Remember to call back until you’ve spoken to the offices of your Representative and both of your Senators.

Here’s why you should take action right now:

Your Members of Congress have started to work on the federal budget, which determines a large chunk of funding for child care and early education programs, along with other programs that matter for women and families. By calling today, we can make sure that Congress knows that the increased investments proposed in the President’s budget are necessary.

The more calls and e-mails they get, the more pressure Congress will feel to support these vital programs. So please help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to friends, family and colleagues.

Thanks for Marching Forth with us!

Helen BlankBest wishes,

Helen Blank
Director, Leadership and Public Policy
National Women’s Law Center

P.S. For more information about the President’s budget proposal for child care and early education, check out our fact sheet and blog post.

P.P.S. Many thanks to our partner organization, AFSCME, for providing the toll-free number to reach Congress — 1-888-460-0813.

I’ve been hearing that legislators are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to balance the state budget by cutting programs and raising fees while seeking to avoid increasing taxes.  That attempt to squeeze every available dollar from any possible source became clear at a hearing held last Friday by the Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee chaired by Senator Dan Moody.

After the Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Holly Robinson presented the her agency’s proposed FY 10 Amended and FY 11 budgets, she was asked whether she could administer a licensing fee for child care providers if legislation instituting such a fee was passed and enacted in 2011. 

I was relieved to hear Dr. Robinson explain to the committee that “this is not an optimal time” to raise fees. Dr. Robinson stated that many providers are struggling to keep their doors open in this economy either because parents who have lost jobs have had to withdraw their children from care or because some parents are no longer able to pay their providers.  She also stated that collecting licensing fees from approximately 7000 providers would be a big job that would take substantial resources from her agency and yield relatively few dollars.

The last 8 months have presented some changes and opportunities for the child care industry in Georgia.  Dr. Robinson has spearheaded a series of quality initiatives that call for, among other things, additional training for child care providers.  Voices for Georgia’s Children supports this new training requirement, but we are aware that obtaining new credentials is an investment of time and resources for child care providers.

 Encouraging child care providers to be licensed by the state is important and the passage of a new fee for obtaining a license would be counterproductive to the efforts we’ve made to increase the availability of affordable, high quality child care for Georgia’s children.

Is giving parents with young children extra votes the way to ensure that Goverment prioritizes children?  One economist suggests that may boost public spending on children.

The article, in today’s New York Times blogs cites a fact sheet by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution stating that:

  • spending on children is about 2.2 % of GDP compared to the 5.3 % spent on the elderly;
  • spending on children goes up after they turn 6, despite all the evidence we have that public investments in very young children yield the most return, and
  • (this one is most sobering for someone like me with young children):

Largely as a result of differences in public subsidies, full-time, year-round child care for young children costs more than public university tuition in 44 states.

I’ll be keeping these facts in mind today as I study the Governor’s budget and analyze its effects on Georgia’s children.

As the Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy at Voices for Georgia’s Children, it is my job to be the organization’s chief lobbyist under the Gold Dome and convener of potential advocates for children throughout the state.

In this challenging fiscal climate, it can be a daunting task to climb the steps to the Capitol each day as we attempt to make the case that programs and policies that are proven to have positive outcomes for children should receive legislative support. Voices and our partners are all painfully aware that we have our work cut out for us as we work to secure additional pre K slots, support the provision of quality child care, revise Georgia’s outdated Juvenile Code, and ensure that children have health coverage.
But, as I contemplate the challenges that I expect to face when the General Assembly convenes in just a few hours, I am surprised, even shocked, to find myself somewhat exhilarated. Why?
In recent weeks, I have been pleased to discover a new energy among the child advocacy and policy community to work together and a new transparency exhibited by child serving agencies. After all, there is no cost and there is much to gain through collaboration. We know that children have better outcomes when all the organizations that serve them work together, and so I am hopeful that even in this dismal economy we can spend the next 40 legislative days crafting and passing policies to improve child outcomes.
I am also looking forward to the possibilities that are open to us as advocates as we embrace new technologies.
I’m hoping that this new blog actually provides us with the opportunity to have a conversation of sorts with people across the state who want to make a difference for kids. Throughout the session, I’ll be posting daily updates describing salient developments affecting children at the legislature and useful advocacy tips. My focus will be on the issues as they move through the legislative process, not on partisan politics. I won’t have the time, space, or energy to provide an exhaustive recap of each committee meeting or speech made on the floor of the House or Senate. There are plenty of places on the web that you can go to if that is your preference. Instead, I hope to use my space to share with you the most important actions and developments each day for kids and, when appropriate, tips on how to advocate effectively. My colleagues will provide commentaries, analysis, and, hopefully, a little inspiration from time to time. Please feel free to comment often!

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