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The ECE Data Crisis

byCharles HollowayonMay 30, 2024

Today, we explore the Early Care and Education (ECE) Data Crisis, its implications for the ECE sector, and how better data can empower advocacy, inform policy, and improve the quality, accessibility, and equity of child care.

The ECE Data Deficit

Every day we engage with advocates, policymakers, coalitions, and leaders at the state and local levels. While we all agree the child care system is broken, securing funding is a major challenge.

One of the primary obstacles is the gap in high-quality, real-time data. Accurate data is crucial for making a compelling case to policymakers and funders, who can be understandably reluctant to make funding decisions based on anecdotal evidence or incomplete data.

  • Outdated data fails to capture the evolving child care landscape, where demand can fluctuate due to changes in demographics and economic conditions.

  • Low-quality data from inconsistent or incomplete sources undermines advocacy efforts.

  • Reliance on extrapolated census data can lead to misleading conclusions, failing to account for local variations and specific community needs.

The Importance of Accurate Data

Real-time, high-quality data is essential for:

  • Empowering Advocacy: Accurate data allows advocates to highlight specific needs and demonstrate the impact of increased investment on children, families, and communities.

  • Informing Policy: Real-time data provides policymakers with an accurate picture of needs and gaps, enabling more effective resource allocation.

  • Improving Quality, Accessibility, and Equity: Real-time data helps monitor care quality, ensuring standards are maintained and improved. Stakeholders can identify gaps and work towards providing high-quality, accessible, and equitable child care for all families.

Success Stories

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program

The Alabama First Class Pre-K program has been the top-rated Pre-K program according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for over a decade and a half. Its success is due in large part to strong partnerships between the Department of Early Childhood Education (DECE), the Alabama governor, the state Legislature, and public and private sectors. These relationships are built on trust, transparency, accountability, and data showing positive outcomes for participating children.

Mesa County, Colorado Community Needs Assessment

In Mesa County, Colorado, county commissioners were initially unconvinced about the need for more child care seats due to a lack of quality data, despite a public outcry for more child care. The Mesa County Partnership for Children and Families presented them with real-time search data from parents indicating gaps in child care supply, helping secure space for 160 new seats.

Helping Providers Succeed

High-quality, real-time data also helps child care providers. A provider with properties in Appleton, CO, and Grand Junction, CO, initially considered opening a center in Appleton due to the absence of existing centers. However, real-time supply and demand data revealed no demand in Appleton but significant demand in Grand Junction. The new facility in Grand Junction quickly developed a waitlist, demonstrating the value of accurate data in making informed decisions.

Solving the ECE Data Crisis (and the Child Care Crisis)

While it remains a struggle to fund ECE to the level it deserves, there is progress. Addressing the data crisis in the child care sector is essential for building a system that works for everyone. High-quality, real-time data empowers advocacy, informs policy, and improves the quality, accessibility, and equity of child care. We urge all stakeholders to prioritize the collection and use of accurate data to advocate for the necessary changes and investments in the ECE sector.

Stay tuned for more posts about what we're doing to help solve the child care crisis by empowering stakeholders with high-quality, real-time data, so we can help build an ECE system that works for everyone!


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