RECLAIMING THE PROMISE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD CARE AND EDUCATION
Our nation's commitment to our children must include a promise that all young children, no matter if they are cared for at home or in group settings outside the home, are in early learning settings and programs that set the stage for a lifetime of learning. Such programs should be age appropriate and engaging, foster social and emotional development, and include oral language and literacy, early math concepts, art, music, and an exploration of nature and the sciences. Decades of experience and evidence show this is one of the most effective ways to improve educational and economic outcomes for children.
This commitment to our young children must begin even before birth, with prenatal care and support for parents. It is built on the knowledge that all children—those who have abundant advantages and those for whom every day is a struggle—benefit throughout their lives from conscientious care and high-quality opportunities for early learning.
However, the promise of a bright future for our children is under attack by those who pursue austerity and polarization while continuing to deny the need for a government role in providing universal early care and education for all children. They undercut efforts to give every child a strong, early start. They marginalize early childhood care providers and educators as "babysitters," entitled to little more than poverty wages and undeserving of a professional voice.
We are at a critical moment when we must reclaim the promise of early childhood care and education—not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as it can be—to fulfill our collective obligation to every child and family.
Reclaiming the promise of early childhood care and education means fighting for families' access to workplace and community supports for the care and education of their young children. Reclaiming the promise means ensuring all young children are engaged in developmentally appropriate programs that foster their social and emotional development. Reclaiming the promise means ensuring young children have a smooth transition from early education settings into kindergarten and their neighborhood public schools. Reclaiming the promise means ensuring early childhood care providers and educators are well-prepared and supported so they can meet the individual needs of every child.
By uniting parents, child care providers, educators and the community around this vision, and by collaborating to develop solutions that are best suited for our families, we will ensure that every child has the opportunities they need and deserve. We will make certain that our children have the chance not only to dream their dreams but to live them:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will:
- Proactively press forward this vision to reclaim the promise of early childhood care and education by assisting state federations and local affiliates to mobilize members and unite with the community to fight against refusals to invest in young children and their families; and
- Engage our members and the community to fight for federal, state and local legislation, policies, funding and collective bargaining agreements to ensure our children have the early childhood care and education opportunities they need and deserve.
This is a living document that must be continuously informed by the collective wisdom of our members, our affiliates and our community partners.