Providers, organizations laud new entity for child care, early education


Some providers and organizations said a new nonprofit corporation will help Montgomery County with child care and early education issues such as better pay and recruiting employees.

The nonprofit entity is tasked with expanding access to “high quality early care and education programs” for children from birth to 5 years old. It would help administer public funds and attempt to secure private-sector funding to reach that goal.

The County Council unanimously passed a bill This week establishing the nonprofit corporation as an “Early Care and Education Coordinating Entity.”

Scott Peterson, a Spokesperson for County Executive Marc Elrich, indicated in a text message that Elrich will sign the legislation.

The nonprofit’s board of directors will have up to nine members from local governments or universities and another 12 members from the private sector in various child care and early education positions.

In an earlier draft, the entity would have had 13 government officials and 12 from the private sector.

All members will have voting power, and will be appointed by the county executive, then face confirmation by the County Council.

Council Members Gabe Albornoz, Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice were lead sponsors of the proposal.

Tiffany Jones, the owner of Precious Moments Family Childcare in Rockville, has been operating her business for 16 years. She submitted written new last fall in support of the nonprofit entity.

In an interview, Jones said that when people think of child care centers, they often think of larger facilities or similar businesses. The legislation will help the county address longstanding inequities for the minority and women-owned child care businesses like hers, said Jones, who is Black.

Jones said it was difficult to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, through changing regulations and the need to buy more cleaning supplies to keep kids safe. A key issue is that county pre-K teachers, Head Start teachers and similar professionals are often paid more than family child care providers, she said.

Many businesses, like hers, don’t have paid leave or other incentives, so they had to stay open as much as possible, she said.

“I’m so happy that our County Council has embraced this new entity, and I look forward to greater things ahead for our early child care and education system,” Jones said.

Joanne Hurt, executive director of Wonders Early Learning and Extended Day — a nonprofit that provides childhood care and early education in the county, Washington, DC, and northern Virginia — also submitted a written testimony in support of the entity.

Hurt said in an interview that improving child care and early education is a complex issue, but the new nonprofit entity will “break down a lot of silos” between different partners in the industry and bring numerous voices to the table.

The pandemic has shown the need for more public investment in child care and early education, but that was an issue beforehand, she said. She cited a report From the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, DC, that shows that child care costs are rising for families and that regulations on facilities present challenges for providers.

Hurt, who has been executive director of Wonders’ executive director since 2007 and has been with the nonprofit for over three decades, said the regulations keep kids safe. But the nonprofit entity can help find new revenue streams to help families and providers, she added.

She also cited the fact that the DC Council recently finalized a plan that would give at least $10,000 to child care providers in the District, to help them compete with pre-K facilities and similar businesses. Under the plan, assistants would get $10,000 and leaders of classrooms would get $14,000.

It will be funded through higher taxes on the city’s wealthiest residents.

“Love of the job goes a long way, but there is a real knowledge and skill set that goes along with this work, that takes training, that takes coaching, and a lot of support and individuals’ professional development,” Hurt said.

“The investment in the workforce … is the most important investment that we can make because ultimately, it’s an investment in the children,” she added.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com

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