A new report, Social-Emotional Skills in Early Childhood Support Workforce Success, has just been released from ReadyNation, a national group of business leaders. ReadyNation is part of the Council for a Strong America. This year the Council has been promoting high-quality child care and evidence-based home visiting in Wisconsin, including meeting with the Governor and communicating with the entire state Legislature.
Employers in Wisconsin and across the county are finding that too many workers lack the skills necessary for their jobs. ReadyNation believes that social-emotional skills—like communication, solving problems, and getting along with others—are keys to workforce success. The report indicates that 92% of business leaders surveyed agreed that children’s early experiences affect their adult social-emotional skills.
The report concludes, “Simply put, providing high-quality early care and education to young children—particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds—is the first step toward building the strong workforce that will drive America’s economy forward in the years to come.”
While Wisconsin has made some positive steps toward high-quality child care through YoungStar and TEACH/REWARD, sufficient financing is sorely lacking. The children receiving subsidies for child care are all from low-income working families, precisely those ReadyNation thinks we should target. However, the decline of Wisconsin Shares in the last ten years, with the long-term drop in payment rates and the number of children served, has been disgraceful. Since 2008, there has been a 25% decline (14,000 kids) in the number of children served by Wisconsin Shares, and the annual child care subsidy payments have dropped by more than $130 million (in current dollars). Subsidy payments provide the financial support to hundreds of high-quality child care programs for low-income children, but the foundation is crumbling.
ReadyNation’s business leaders recommend investment in high-quality early care and education, particularly focused on children from disadvantaged backgrounds, in order to build an effective workforce. Wisconsin has a long way to go.
Early Education Policy Analyst