Today, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona held a virtual roundtable conversation with a diverse group of early childhood stakeholders and leaders who bring perspective from the experiences of early educators, families, and communities during the public health emergency. Today's conversation will help inform the Department's early learning priorities. Topics that the early childhood stakeholders discussed included the early educator workforce, childcare and pre-K, early intervention and early childhood special education services, and family supports.
Secretary Cardona opened the discussion saying, "We know that this upcoming year is going to be critically important, and this conversation today is going to help shape some of the work that we do in early learning. We have the early learning heavyweights from across the country on this call. I'd love your perspective on how we can build back better."
"I think we've seen a renewed coming together of parents as teachers, and teachers, realizing that they're in this together and I think you can build upon that," said Joan Lombardi, senior scholar at Georgetown University and international expert on child development and social policy. "I can't reinforce enough how much we need to revolutionize the K-3 system &helip; and the childcare and pre-school discussion…they should be planning together in a community."
Lea Austin, director of the Center for the Study of Childcare Employment at UC Berkeley, said, "We know in this country that 98% of other occupations are paid more than people who are working with our youngest children. And within that, we know that we have some serious racial inequities and wage gaps. As we think about building back better, for me it really means having those educators who are the linchpin to early care and education quality, thriving and for these to be good jobs so that we have people clamoring to be early educators in this country."
Secretary Cardona closed the conversation saying, "I want to go from these conversations to actually planning. Going back to what it was prior to March 2020 is not the goal; that's a low bar.
"I've visited about 11 states already during and after the tour, and those places that are doing the best are the ones that understand intentional collaboration; that doesn't mean you agree…but be intentional about making sure you're putting students at the center of the conversation.
"Supporting the development of our young children and families should be a community effort because when our children succeed, our communities succeed."