A year-long effort to improve early childhood education in Delaware ended Monday with a report from the state’s Office of Early Learning.
The report from the Delaware Office of Early Learning Advisory Committee outlines a series of steps the state can take to better prepare the youngest Delawareans for success in the early elementary school years and beyond.
Providing quality education for those in child care settings is vital if for no other reason than because of how many students are affected. The report found 80% of Delaware children live in households where all available parents are employed. “Delaware’s early childhood workforce holds the potential to impact the success and prosperity of the state and its citizens in significant ways,” the report said.
Led by Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long, the advisory group of parents, educators, and others have been meeting since 2021 to develop ways to better prepare youngsters for kindergarten.
“What have we learned? Every child is born ready [to learn]”, Hall-Long said. “Shame on us if we don’t capitalize on the 1,825 days that we have been given from birth to [age] five to impact constructively, completely, brain development so that all children have those opportunities to enter ready for success, equitably, at the time they enter kindergarten.”
The report calls for the state to strengthen its infrastructure supporting early childhood education and offer those who provide that education better resources. Recommendations also pointed to the need to ensure a child’s health care needs, both physically and mentally, are taken care of as they develop.
Karen Hartz is the director of early childhood at Wilmington’s Latin American Community Center where the committee unveiled its report Monday. She said helping children and families deal with mental health stressors is something they’ve been focused on for a long time.
“Many of our parents and children have experienced trauma, including the trauma of crossing into the United States to seek asylum, homelessness, family separation, and child abuse,” Hartz said. “Simply providing child care for children who have experienced these stressors in life just isn’t enough.”
The report also recommends better pay for early childhood educators and found more than 10,000 employees in child care or early learning settings earn an unlivable wage. Even early childhood educators who have a bachelor’s degree earn nearly 35% less than their colleagues in the K-8 system. The poverty rate for early educators is 13% in Delaware, according to the report, much higher than the rate for Delaware workers at large.