All children are born full of hope and potential, and we know that early childhood experiences set the stage for the rest of a child’s life. Despite this, inequities in our early learning and care system fail to provide equal opportunity, especially for children of color, children in rural areas, and children in poverty. These inequities have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inspired by the knowledge of how critical the first years of life are, Oregon has started to make progress for young children. We must keep going. When we work in partnership with children, families, and communities, we can create transformative and equitable solutions. To make this a reality, Oregon needs courageous leaders that will hold the state and systems accountable to deliver on that vision.
5 Things You Should Know About Early Childhood in Oregon
1. Zip code, income, and race/ethnicity are powerful predictors of a child and family’s opportunities to thrive (Child Opportunity Index).
2. Nearly 50 percent of Oregon births are funded by Medicaid. For Oregon babies to thrive, it is essential to have a health system that serves young children well (Oregon Health Authority).
3. The Student Success Act (2019) dedicated 20 percent of revenue to early childhood services. It doubled the state’s investment in early learning and care, with investments in all the place children learn and grow. It includes needed investments in early learning, culturally specific programs, family support, and the early childhood workforce (Oregon Department of Education). Even with these investments, Oregon has a long way to go to reach all children and families.
- All 36 counties in Oregon are child care deserts for infants and toddlers. This means that for every three children, there is less than one available spot (Oregon State University).
- Only one-third of children in low-income families have access to publicly funded preschool, leaving nearly 30,000 children without access to preschool before they start kindergarten.
4. The median wage for child care workers in Oregon is $12.46 per hour. Unlivable wages across the field result in high turnover, and even before the pandemic, the annual turnover rate for child care workers in Oregon was 25-30 percent. This disproportionately impacts women of color, who make up 40 percent of the child care workforce (Center for the Study of Child Care Employment).
5. Oregon’s early childhood programs are delivered across a variety of settings to best meet the needs of children and families. This is known as “mixed delivery” and includes:
- Family, friend, and neighbor care
- Small and large family child care homes
- Head Start centers
- Community based organizations, including culturally specific organizations
- Child care centers
- Public schools, community colleges, education service districts
- Relief Nurseries
- And others
Oregon Needs Visionary Leadership
With strong leadership, we can move toward a child-centered early learning and care system that prioritizes every child’s diverse strengths and needs, starting at birth. We need leaders to commit to building an equitable childhood system that works for all Oregon kids, so young children, families, and communities can thrive.
Read our 2023 policy agenda! Explore the drop down menu below to learn more about our priority issues.
Quality & Access
Oregon must continue to make progress to fund quality and access across early learning and care.
Every Oregon family deserves access to high quality, affordable, and culturally relevant child care. And every child care provider should be paid a wage that reflects the essential work they do. It shouldn’t fall on parents and providers alone to foot the bill for a system that benefits our whole society.
Early learning and care facilities are essential community infrastructure.
Quality early learning and care facilities support children’s brain development and support the overall health and wellbeing of children, providers, and educators. Oregon lacks adequate physical space to provide care for all children who need it. To this need, investment in child care infrastructure is critical.
Oregon must create accessible and equitable workforce pathways, increase compensation, and stabilize the field.
The stability of our child care workforce affects our children’s ability to feel secure and to establish the bonds they need to grow and thrive, not just while in care, but well into the future. It also affects the economic stability and workforce participation of parents, especially mothers. Unfortunately, in Oregon, we see an annual turnover in the child care workforce of between 25-30 percent. We must address low compensation in the sector, increase availability of accessible and affordable child care and early learning education programs, and transition the state to pay child care providers based on the true cost of providing care so they can raise wages.
Children’s early health outcomes in the first 3 years of life are foundational to life-long health and well-being.
The experiences children have starting at birth set the foundation for their future learning. A baby’s brain produces a million neural connections each second and 90 percent of brain development takes place in the first five years. During this critical period, we must ensure all kids get the health services and support they need to ensure optimal development.
The ability to read and read well is one of the most essential foundations in a child’s life, impacting high school graduation, higher education, and future earnings.
Oregon faces a literacy crisis. Less than 40 percent of Oregon third graders are proficient at reading, with increased disparities for students in under-resourced schools, students of color, students with disabilities, and bilingual students. These disparities point to systemic challenges that requires comprehensive statewide solutions. Fortunately, decades of research tell us what children need to learn to read, and other states have modeled that it is possible to teach children how to read, and reduce disparities.
Early Education is Infrastructure for Oregon’s Workforce
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting increase in telecommuting and distance learning for children has elevated the importance of early learning and care as a key component supporting Oregon’s workforce.
Policy Brief: Facilities Investments Would Build Capacity for Oregon’s Early Childhood System
This policy brief explains why greater public investment to expand early childhood facilities is crucial to build the capacity of Oregon’s child care and preschool system, highlights public funding models in other states, and offers policy recommendations.
Prioritizing Early Childhood in Oregon: A Discussion with State Rep. Karin Power & Rep. Jack Zika
In this segment, Rep. Power and Rep. Zika discuss legislative priorities in Oregon’s early childhood sector, such as supporting the expansion of facilities and strengthening the workforce, and share what they’re hearing from their constituents.
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