Expanding Child Care for Student Parents and Training Pathways for Early Childhood Educators

The NGA Center in partnership with Education Strategy Group held a virtual action lab focused on expanding access to and affordability of childcare for student parents and the development of quality training pathways for early childhood educators.

Access to affordable, quality childcare and early learning has become an increasing challenge for parents seeking to access education and workforce opportunities. This problem has been exacerbated by the shortage of early childhood and childcare workers. To support states in tackling these challenges, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center), in partnership with Education Strategy Group (ESG), held a virtual action lab focused on expanding access to and affordability of childcare for student parents and the development of quality training pathways for early childhood educators. This event was the last in a series of State Equitable Recovery Coalition action labs, supported by the Siemens Foundation, which brought together state teams and national experts in a workshop setting to focus on actions state leaders could take to address these issues. Eleven state cross-agency teams came together for this learning opportunity–including Governors’ policy advisors, health and human services agency staff, postsecondary education leaders and workforce agency staff. In this learning space, state teams were able to hear from their peers and national experts about how they might address this critical access and workforce issue.

The first day of the action lab focused on analyzing innovative models from three states, as well as learning insights from national experts on early childhood development, prekindergarten through grade 12, and postsecondary education. A speaker from Minnesota presented attendees with information on their Postsecondary Child Care Grant, which provides financial assistance to students who have children 12 and under as well as helps to pay for child care while pursuing a postsecondary education, among other benefits. The speaker walked state teams through the program’s background and the unique aspects and allocation of funding for the project.  Presenters from North Dakota shared updates for their ongoing work based around strengthening early childhood care. Through House Bill’s 1416 & 1466, North Dakota established an “early childhood” division within their Department of Health and Human Services to support state child care workforce needs, created an early childhood grant to help fund established best practices that are at least four-years old, and allowed for grant funds to be put towards resources for classrooms. Following those updates, the North Dakota presenters provided an overview of their partnership with The Hunt Institute, who helped the state better analyze their data and make informed policy decisions moving forward. Some of the results of that work can be found here. The final state to present was Oklahoma, which provided a walkthrough on their innovative model of non-traditional hour care and their budding innovations in the childcare sector, including a childcare best practices database that is under development with national partners.

In addition to discussing promising state models, attendees also learned about research from two key national research organizations–Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and The Education Trust. BPC walked attendees through their recently released Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships Roadmap and accompanying report, which addresses how Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships can help increase access to holistic, high-quality infant and toddler care for more children. The session engaged state leaders in a conversation about policy options available to them to develop and enhance these critical partnerships. The Education Trust presenters then followed up with a deep dive into two of their resources focused on childcare access for student parent populations: For Student Parents, The Biggest Hurdles to A Higher Education are Costs and Finding Child Care and Many Determined College Students Are Also Dedicated Parents: A Preview of the Student Parent Affordability Report. These resources include key state metrics in these fields, data highlights, and a set of recommendations to combat these problems.

The National Database of Childcare Prices (NDCP) is a new,  comprehensive federal source of information on childcare prices at the county level in the United States. The NDCP offers childcare price data by childcare provider type and age of children (ages 0-12). Childcare prices are presented for the most recent year of data collection, 2018, as well as adjusted for inflation to estimate 2022 costs. Visit here to download the data and view interactive maps.

This event was part of a continuing effort to support Governors’ offices in state planning and program development connected to expanding childcare access and affordability while also investing in quality training pathways for early childhood educators. Several NGA Center policy teams continue to work with and across a range of state constituencies to map resources and identify areas of improvement within this space.

This article was developed by Charles Schonberger, NGA Center for Best Practices. For more information on Governors’ child care efforts please contact communications@nga.org.