A Growing Presence on Opinion Pages: Early Childhood

Helen Shum

May 27, 2020

If you’re struggling to keep up with the sheer number of recently published opinion pieces relevant to early childhood, you’re not alone. The coronavirus pandemic is bringing more attention to a number of longstanding issues that affect children’s healthy development, including our growing child care crisis and ever-widening opportunity gaps in education.  

Here’s a selection of some of the best we’ve seen lately. Catch up when you have a moment.  


opinion round up image

A selection of opinion headlines from across the country

Today’s Children are the Pandemic Generation. For Millions, the Future is Now Grim

Writing in the Washington Post, Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician, and Karen B. Redlener, co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund, outline a bleak future for the world’s most vulnerable children in the wake of the pandemic.

“There is no doubt that persistent lockdowns and school closings have affected children everywhere. UNICEF reports that more than 91 percent of the world’s children are impacted by school shutdowns, and at least 117 million children are at risk of missing vital health care, including critical vaccines. Extensive surveys conducted by Save the Children also found that nearly half of all children said they were ‘worried’ and a third reported feeling ‘scared.’

These challenges only add to the serious adversities many children already face—from poverty and homelessness to food insecurity and suboptimal schools. A new report from Columbia University’s Center on Poverty & Social Policy projects that if unemployment reaches 30 percent, child poverty could rise from 13.6 percent as of February 2020 to nearly 21 percent by the end of the year.”


I’m Sick of Asking Children to be Resilient

In a fierce call to action pediatrician, author, and advocate, Mona Hanna-Attisha in the New York Times argues that if we truly care about children, we need evidence-based investments and policies that support their healthy development and wellbeing. 

“This is how we begin to transform the concept of resilience from an individual trait to one that describes a community—and society—that cares for everyone. Rather than hoping a child is tough enough to endure the insurmountable, we must build resilient places—healthier, safer, more nurturing and just—where all children can thrive. This is where prevention and healing begin.”

Want to Reopen the Economy? Bail Out Child Care Providers

The Los Angeles Times endorses public investment in child care as a necessary step towards economic recovery. While none of the arguments will be new or surprising for early childhood advocates, this board editorial presents them to a general audience in an accessible and pragmatic way.

“Child care is too often an afterthought for the nation’s political leaders. It’s treated as an optional expense. A lifestyle choice. A woman’s problem. But you can’t have a strong, prosperous economy if a significant portion of the population can’t work. And parents of children too young to be left home alone can’t get back to work as long as schools, summer camps and day-care centers are closed.”

Repairing the Broken Child Care Market

Closer to home, the Bend Bulletin’s editorial board makes a similar argument while also praising local efforts to help.

“Before the pandemic, registered child care centers and in-home providers had enough openings only for one in three children under the age of 5. Then the pandemic drove many child care facilities to shutdown. Others couldn’t keep as many children.

What has been impressive is the way people in Central Oregon responded even before the pandemic hit. There are many groups to credit, including Central Oregon chambers, Governor Brown’s Regional Solutions team, Better Together, The Early Learning Hub, NeighborImpact, Central Oregon Health Council, TRACES, OSU-Cascades, COCC and more. They created a Central Oregon child care accelerator position to coordinate the efforts to improve child care in the region. The effort now has a new website, centraloregonchildcare.com.”

Working Parents Could Face Lack of Child Care as the Economy Restarts

In political news outlet, The Hill, Cindy Cisneros, former special assistant for elementary education at the Department of Education, lays out a number of specific actions that the federal government should take to support child care in the next stimulus package. She maintains that the economy cannot fully recover from the pandemic without serious and substantial support for working parents. 

“Congress can provide states temporary funding to programs to stabilize and continue operations during the next year while the economy moves to more parents going back to work. Congress can provide grants to child care programs that are now closed so they can reopen and meet community needs. Public private partnerships can be encouraged to help programs reduce costs and operate in a more efficient manner.”

Looking for a more irreverent take on the same topic? Also in the New York Times, Lauren Birchfield Kennedy and Katie Mayshak illustrate a stark, post-COVID reality for working parents in a country without increased public funding to support child care in, Say Hello to That New Spin Studio and Goodbye to Your Child Care

Turning a Blind Eye Toward Pre-K is a Mistake

Writing in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Chris Gentilviso argues that concerns about COVID-19-related opportunity gaps in education need to include consideration of our youngest learners. 

“As we think about education in a post-pandemic world, turning a blind eye toward pre-K is a mistake…Early childhood education should be a top-of-mind concern, and there is no distance learning bandage for our kids’ critical development before age 5.” 

A Preschool Watering Hole… Evaporated

For an early educator’s perspective, please read Teresa Ashford’s thoughtful piece on her struggle to honor best practice in the classroom alongside new health and safety standards brought on by COVID-19. 

“Children are hands-on, sensory learners. They learn by exploring, moving, and physically engaging with their environments. I understand that developmentally appropriate practice must be sacrificed in the midst of staying alive during the coronavirus pandemic. Our lives are more important… But what will be the long-term outcomes on children’s development?”

Early Childhood Investments are Even More Critical Now

Last but not least, here’s our own Swati Adarkar’s response to the latest state revenue forecast and why she believes that now, more than ever, is the time to hold fast to public investments in early childhood.

“Now is the time to hold firm on Oregon’s commitment to young children and their families and to protect and expand our early childhood investments. This will take moral courage and clarity about how to best address long-standing inequities in Oregon while considering the state’s future economic health.

We are inspired by Oregonians coming together to create solutions, and we know that centering our most vulnerable children and families when decisions are made will give us a stronger and healthier state. We stand ready to work with our elected officials, partners, and families to ensure a brighter, healthier future for us all.”

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