Early education is in the spotlight now. That was the message from Kathleen O’Donnnell, Executive Director, and Sara Benzkofer, Director of Policy and Communications, of MnAEYC-MnSACA. The April Policy Hour presenters are from the state affiliate of the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). They talked about the Power to the Profession Initiative out of NAEYC and how the recent attention to early childhood development and education presents both challenges and opportunities to support and advance the profession.
The Power to the Profession Initiative aims to establish a shared framework of career pathways, knowledge and competencies, qualifications, standards, and compensation that unifies the entire profession, which will lead to a comprehensive policy and financing strategy for their systemic adoption and implementation. It consists of eight decision cycles, each one quarter long. Each decision cycle covers a specific, manageable topic and provides an opportunity for public input.
MnAEYC is working to engage their members and other stakeholders throughout the state. O’Donnell noted that Power to the Profession is only one part of the Minnesota puzzle, and that there is in fact a whole “ecosystem of initiatives” around the early childhood work force. They include:
- B-8 Task Force out of the National Academy of Sciences
- National Governors’ Association Compensation Group
- P3 Design Team
In Minnesota, the P3 Design Team is the hub where all the initiatives report to. The Design Team is a group of people in the Minnesota early education field who discuss how to support PreK to 3rd Grade alignment in the state. They have expanded from their original mission and are thinking more broadly about how to support children ages birth to 8. Because Design Team members participate in other work, it makes sense as a place to share information and ideas.
Many people understand how important early childhood care and education is. NAEYC’s public opinion poll found that people value the work of early childhood professionals. However, policies and funds to support early childhood educators have not yet caught up to public opinion. Part of the Power to the Profession Initiative will be trying to move the public opinion into public policy. They will look to other campaigns and professions for examples, including nursing.
Policy Hour attendees noted that it can be inconvenient to fill out surveys to provide feedback because they already have a lot on their plates. Although the Power to the Profession Initiative covers many topics, some people are most concerned about compensation. It can be difficult to think about professional standards when the wages are inadequate. Presenters heard this feedback and said they will pass it along. O’Donnell has also been encouraging NAEYC to use methods beyond the internet to connect with stakeholders. Because other Minnesota groups are working on the issue, it’s possible that compensation will be addressed earlier. Todd Otis of Think Small shared that the National Governors’ Association group plans to bring legislation in 2018.
The Power to the Profession initiative is just taking shape. O’Donnell and Benzkofer encouraged everyone to participate however they can to make it successful and reflective of as many stakeholders as possible. For more information, contact Sara Benzkofer at firstname.lastname@example.org.