As we look back on 2022—a year the world did its best to get back to “normal” and put the pandemic’s devastation behind us—some of us aren’t rushing to put the past two-and-a-half years in the rearview mirror. There were numerous COVID-era “silver linings.”
The pandemic put a spotlight on some key truths about early childhood policy and advocacy—principles advocates are now working to advance further.
To start, steady infusions of cash help families thrive. The enhanced Child Tax Credit cut child poverty in half, reduced food insecurity, and helped families meet monthly expenses. Receiving direct economic supports each month, instead of annually through tax returns, meant fixing the car or paying an unexpected health care bill without plunging families into financial crisis. Seizing the moment, advocates are pushing for child tax credits and earned income tax credits at the state level, and you can read about their successes in Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia.
Child care is essential. The child care crisis came into focus in the spring of 2020, when the collapsing economy made it clear that “essential workers” include child care providers. Since that time, we’ve engaged in new discussions about the role of high-quality child care in economic recovery and resilience. Advocates are winning new funding and system reform. New Mexico and the District of Columbia established new, sustainable funding streams that will begin to close the gap between what child care providers earn and what they are worth. And the six Child Care NEXT states are working to transform their state child care systems.
Working together is more effective—and equitable. The pandemic blurred the lines that divide the “lanes” we work in, and more diverse state constituencies are working to sustain the trust and cooperation forged in the crisis of the pandemic. My mind immediately goes to Connecticut, where early childhood advocates, child care providers, parents, and unions worked together during the pandemic to fight for the child care workforce. When the governor’s proposed budget didn’t match the rhetoric about the essential function of child care, the community activated for a statewide demonstration that turned the tide—and the budget.
There are certainly new challenges, like rising political polarization, and old challenges like austerity remain strong. But this past year builds on the one that came before it, with advocates breaking the traditional narrative, seizing silver linings, and moving toward bolder visions of what young children need—and indeed, deserve. Read on to learn more, and visit our state advocacy landscapes for state-by-state details.
Every child, every state,
Helene Stebbins, Executive Director
Alliance for Early Success
While incremental budget increases, policy wins, and regulatory improvements are important, enduring systemic shifts require more than legislative advocacy “under the dome” of the state capitol. Bold change requires a constituency for early childhood policy that is too big and united to ignore. The Alliance’s strategy for accelerating state early childhood advocacy is built on this fact.
In 2022, the Alliance elevated best practices for centering voices with lived experience and the critical need for authentic coalitions in which members build shared and collective power. These efforts encourage state advocacy landscapes to evolve and become more equity-focused and inclusive in pursuit of long-term, systemic transformation.
Advocates in North Carolina are actively seeking out grassroots partnerships in order to center community voices as experts. NC Child and the Charlotte affiliate of the National Black Child Development Institute (BCDI-Charlotte) co-lead a care and learning initiative—CandL—which works to move the state toward an equitable early education system. In 2022, they were able to expand outreach to additional grassroots organizations in their targeted 27 counties, and then attract additional funders to add 10 additional counties in the western region of the state. These partnerships are bringing in diverse parent voices to develop deeper understanding of the needs and challenges families face, and to forge broader connections, such as with primarily Spanish-speaking communities. They are building an army of organizations working with families to inform and advocate for transformative change.
Alliance allies collaborated with coalitions of early educators and child care providers to influence the distribution of federal COVID-19 relief funds. Coalitions of early childhood stakeholders provided extensive feedback on child care stabilization grants and helped articulate priorities for additional spending of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) discretionary dollars. Coalition efforts included work groups, statewide listening sessions, and qualitative and quantitative research on needs and barriers.
As coalitions grow in membership and influence, they are expanding into issue areas that indirectly impact families with young children, such as voting rights and state budget revenue efforts. In Rhode Island, the Right from the Start Campaign joined a larger coalition to push for improved access to voting by mail and early in-person voting so that parents have more options to participate in democracy. In West Virginia, child advocates joined existing coalitions in vocal opposition to repealing the state personal income tax, which would have had profound, negative impacts on state-funded programs for children and families.
Established coalitions are also more nimble, as they are able to seize opportunity quickly and powerfully. In Connecticut an existing coalition sprang into action to protest inadequate, level funding for child care in the state budget. Advocates, child care providers, and parents banded together and delayed openings of child care locations for a high-visibility “Morning Without Child Care.” The rallies in cities across the state gained significant media attention and, ultimately, budget concessions.
The Alliance continued to pursue its commitment to accelerating the evolution of state advocacy landscapes through peer learning opportunities that give allies the knowledge, tools, and relationships to pursue long-term, systemic transformation in a manner that is sustainable and equitable. Several communities of practice launched in 2022 give grantees opportunities to focus on the “how” of advocacy with cohorts of six-to-eight teams over six-to-nine months.
The year was an important one for the Child Care NEXT initiative, a proving ground for the impact that comes from diverse coalitions that prioritize parent and provider leadership and build collective power. Recognizing that transformational change takes time, Child Care NEXT provides multi-year funding so coalitions can establish a strong foundation, build trust, and share resources—both financial and experiential—to radically change child care policies and funding.
In 2022, diverse teams in Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia undertook intensive planning efforts to build strong coalitions, identify a transformational vision, and draft a campaign plan to achieve that vision. To create cohesion, states developed and committed to values and operating agreements that guide decision-making and ensure that coalition members are approaching child care transformation from a shared foundation.
As a cohort of peers, they shared how they understood and built collective power, and in partnership with evaluators at Innovation Network, they identified common milestones for building collective power.
In Oregon, the coalition intentionally “set the table” by inviting grassroots organizations based in communities of color to establish their steering committee. To ensure that coalition work is “directed by parents and providers,” Louisiana requires that the membership of its committees be comprised of at least 55-percent parents and providers. Colorado translates its meetings and materials into Spanish and Dari and holds meetings in the evenings and on weekends to create opportunities for parents and providers to direct their work.
As the Child Care NEXT states launch their campaign plans in 2023, the Alliance for Early Success looks forward to learning and sharing more about the power, influence, and transformational change that diverse, equitable, and enduring coalition can achieve.
AFTER THE SESSIONS:
After most 2022 legislative sessions were complete, there was a November national general election. Thanks to several ballot measures put on the ballot by state advocates, voters in several states achieved additional advances for young children and their families.
South Dakota expanded Medicaid to people with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
New Mexico dedicated a share of the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education for the first time—the culmination of more than a decade of work by families, communities, and advocates.
Colorado provided school meals free of cost for all children statewide and dedicated 0.1 percent of income tax revenue to a new state affordable housing fund. (However, the state’s voters also reduced the state income tax rate by 0.15 percent, which will reduce resources available for essential services like child care.)
Massachusetts will create a 4-percent tax on incomes that exceed $1 million for education and transportation funding. West Virginia voters said no on a measure that would have provided a business tax cut, costing counties revenue.
Oregon’s measure that would ensure affordable health care as a fundamental right was passed by voters.
In 2022, there were six ballot measures addressing abortion—the most on record for a single year. California, Michigan, and Vermont established state constitutional rights to abortion. Voters in Kansas (August) and Kentucky rejected amendments that would have stated that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding of abortions. Voters in Montana rejected a measure that would have declared infants born alive at any stage of development to be legal persons requiring medical care.
The policy analysis in the Alliance for Early Success 50-State Progress and Landscape Report, was prepared by the Alliance policy team, with special thanks to Frontera Strategy for conducting the 50-state survey and Danielle Ewen for her thoughtful review.
Mandy Ableidinger, Senior Policy Director
Mimi Aledo-Sandoval, Senior Policy Director
Jacy Montoya-Price, Senior Director, Advocacy and Issue Campaigns
Marquita Little Numan, Senior Director, Equity and Impact
Daniela Villasmil, Policy Associate
Albert Wat, Senior Policy Director
Helene Stebbins, Executive Director
Individual state pages were compiled by Alliance staff from the sources credited on each page.
The 50-state landscape survey was completed by Frontera Strategy, a partner that supports advocacy efforts by providing qualitative and quantitative research services, including needs assessments and environmental scans, program and policy evaluation, statistical analyses, and survey research for associations, foundations, and nonprofit service organizations active in state capitols.
Lisa Kerber, PhD
Advocates working in all states and the District of Columbia completed the survey, and all 51 are represented in the data.
Frontera acknowledges Dr. Toni Watt’s expertise and contributions related to survey design and statistical analyses. Frontera also thanks Rita Furlow (Maine Children’s Alliance), Mandi Kimball (Children at Risk), Brian Schmidt (Kids Win Missouri), Libbie Sonnier, PhD (Louisiana Policy Institute for Children), and Deborah Zysman (Hawaiʻi Children’s Network), for participating in the cognitive interviews and offering feedback on survey instrument, as well as Alissa Marchant, PhD, of Innovation Network, for assistance with survey design.
This report was edited by Stinson Liles, Director of Communications, Alliance for Early Success.
Alliance for Early Success (2022), 2022 50-State Progress and Landscape Report. Retrieved from https://earlysuccess.org/2022-progress-and-landscape.
Sign up for invitations to early childhood policy webinars, state advocacy news, and more.