Business, Government and Civic Leaders Launch Fairfax Futures


Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

June 7, 2004

 

Business, Government and Civic Leaders Launch Fairfax Futures
Freddie Mac Foundation Gives $60,000 to Fund for Early Learning

 

Fairfax County government officials have joined state government, civic and business leaders in launching a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening early childhood education programs in the county.

“Early Learning is Good Business” was the theme of a June 3 kickoff event, which was billed as a “summit” for both the public and private sectors and hosted by the Washington Business Journal. Speakers described current efforts to improve early childhood education, noted its long-term economic significance and offered opportunities for business and civic leaders to take part in Fairfax Futures: The Fund for Early Learning and School Readiness.

Fairfax Futures will bring together organizations in business, education, philanthropy and government to invest in early learning programs. Through partnerships among these organizations, Fairfax Futures will build on efforts begun in 2003 by Fairfax County’s Office for Children to strengthen the knowledge, skills and abilities of the early childhood workforce. The Freddie Mac Foundation, an early supporter, formally presented the organization with a planning grant of $60,000 to launch Fairfax Futures.

The summit’s host, Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, told the attendees that the county “needs a systematic effort to support the preschool experience of our youngest residents.” However, he said, the Office for Children has had enormous success with its Institute for Early Learning and Emerging Literacy, which was established last year with an $800,000 federal grant. The Institute offered 320 classes for child care center teachers and family child care providers. Connolly quoted the director of a child care center in Fairfax County as saying that, when teachers return from training, “I see more books available, more reading activities, and I even see the youngest children involved in writing. I feel confident these children are well on their way to becoming good readers and writers.”

The federal grant also funded early childhood professional traineeships linking increased knowledge and competencies to greater compensation and improved retention. In addition, it supported on-site work with seven community child care centers to strengthen child and family literacy.

Trading Cards Give 10 Reasons for Business to Support Early Learning
Emphasizing that success in early education has a measurable payoff, Connolly said, “Every dollar invested in preschool programs ultimately means seven fewer dollars will have to be spent on remediation, welfare payments, unemployment and other compensatory costs.” That and other statistics were included in a pack of trading cards handed out to the audience. Entitled “10 Reasons Why Every Business Should Make it Their Business to Support Early Learning,” the cards reported:
• Children who have no pre-kindergarten experiences are twice as likely to need special education services as are children who have had pre-kindergarten.
• A study showed that 3- and 4-year olds who were deprived of quality child care were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18 than were children who received quality child care.
• In a recent study of eight immigrant communities in Fairfax County, 20 percent of the respondents reported that poor English skills hurt their children’s performance in schools.
• 1,500 hours of specialized training are required to be a licensed hairdresser in Virginia. To be a teacher or a teacher’s aide in a licensed child care center in Virginia requires only 8 hours of training each year.

The morning summit also featured two nationally recognized speakers: David Lawrence Jr., president of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and former publisher of The Miami Herald, and Dr. Mildred Warner, associate professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University.

Talking about partnerships he has helped to develop in Florida, Lawrence said, “Building a real early learning movement depends on people with years of experience in partnership with people like myself with eagerness to learn and willingness to share – and in full, respectful partnership with parents, who should be a child’s best teachers.”

Lawrence was a key figure in securing passage of a Florida state constitutional amendment to make quality pre-kindergarten available for all 4-year olds beginning in 2005. Citing accomplishments of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, he noted the dramatic increase in quality child care facilities in Miami-Dade County, Fla., from 17 facilities five years ago to over 200 today, as well as a successful campaign that has yielded more than $65 million a year for early childhood intervention and delinquency prevention. “We work with people from the business community, the faith community, the civic and political community, child care people, educators, health professionals,” he said, “and the list goes on and on.”

Calling early education “most assuredly…a practical cause,” Lawrence said, “For years I have heard business people gripe about the quality of high school and college graduates. I want them to know that the smartest investment we and they could make would be in the crucial early years.” He cited a study by the Child and Family Policy Center of Des Moines, Iowa, showing that 85 percent of a child’s core brain structure is formed by age 3, while less than 4 percent of public investment in education and child development occurs during that period.

Qualified Workforce is Top Factor in Influencing Business Location
Dr. Mildred Warner was introduced by Dr. Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, who noted that availability of a qualified work force is the most important factor in employers’ business location decisions. Fuller pointed out that Northern Virginia, with an unemployment rate of 1.8 percent, has a labor shortage at present. Full labor force utilization in the short term requires that working families have access to child care, he said, while in the longer term, the county’s economic well-being will depend on its ability to deliver an educated workforce.

Warner, who directs Cornell’s Child Care and Economic Development Project, called child care an undeveloped market in need of better data collection and receptive to improvement through market incentives. “The private sector knows how to do marketing,” she said. “I encourage you to apply those skills to child care.” In particular, she said businesses elsewhere in the country have succeeded in advocating for child care, helping states meet their matching requirements for federal funds, developing new business models for child care management and implementing family-friendly workplace policies.

Child care can have a “multiplier” effect, Warner said, noting that child care businesses purchase goods and services from local suppliers. “Each new dollar spent on child care in the local economy generates $1.87 through linkages to other local industries.”

She emphasized the long-term impact of quality care and noted the potential to enhance child care in Virginia through partnerships with the private sector, such as those that have proven successful in Florida and New York. “Framing child care as economic development, rather than welfare policy, can be a powerful tool,” she said. “Economists are reinterpreting early education expenditures as investments for the long term.”

Dean Klein, community relations manager of the Freddie Mac Foundation, presented a check for $60,000 to Todd Rowley, a member of the Fairfax Futures Board of Directors and challenged other businesses and foundations to join the early learning movement.

The summit was co-sponsored by the Fairfax County Child Care Council, the Fairfax County Community Action Advisory Board, the Fairfax County Office for Children and Fairfax Futures.

For more information, contact Gail Bjorklund in the Fairfax County Office for Children at 703-324-8225, TTY 711.


Check presentation to Fairfax Futures

From left to right, people in photo are Gerald E. Connolly, chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Todd Rowley, Wachovia & Fairfax Futures Board Member, and Dean Klein, Freddie Mac Foundation.


 

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