As I drove to work this morning, the conversation on my news radio station was around essential positions in our communities. They mentioned hospitals, schools, grocery stores and more.
We must not forget our child care programs and the early childhood educators who teach and care for our children every day!
As the coronavirus affects all aspects of our lives, I urge federal, state and local policymakers to consider early childhood educators as essential workers in today’s economy. Any measures taken by government to support Americans who do not have paid sick leave, early childhood educators must be included. These dedicated teachers are the workforce that supports all other workforces. With K-12 schools closing, child care centers must consider whether to remain open and risk exposure or to close and put their teachers and staff at risk of not being paid. The centers that choose to remain open might also be needed to serve additional children.
Early childhood educators are one of the lowest-paid workforces in the U.S., and often do not have paid sick leave or health insurance. And yet, this does not reflect their value to our children and families. Science tells us the first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial for brain development, setting the architecture for all future learning. “Early experiences affect the development of the brain and lay the foundation for intelligence, emotional health, and moral development,” according to Jack Shonkoff, director of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. 
“The lack of paid sick days could make coronavirus harder to contain in the United States compared with other countries that have universal sick leave policies in place,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing federal health agencies, said in a statement. “Low-income workers and their families could be hit even harder by the virus, as low wage jobs are at the forefront of not providing sick leave benefits.” .
“Workers should never be forced to choose between staying home or working while sick to earn a living,” said Congressman David Price.  While it didn’t pass in Congress, Congressman Price co-sponsored Rep. DeLauro’s Healthy Families Act “because we need a national paid sick leave policy to help families take care of illnesses and the financial burden it may cause. And, it will help contain the spread of viruses like coronavirus by allowing sick workers to remain home.” 
Early childhood educators ARE essential personnel. If federal, state and local governments are going to support essential jobs, we must also support our child care workforce and our early childhood programs.
We hope that North Carolina will consider multiple areas to support programs and families, including:
- Adjusting payment policies so they are based on enrollment of children rather than actual attendance;
- Waiving any state policies that terminate child eligibility based on a specific number of absent days;
- Temporarily suspending redetermination of family eligibility for child care services;
- Allowing providers to waive co-pays and adjusting reimbursement rates accordingly.
There are many more ways we can support our communities, and we would be happy to work with the state on this. We need to ensure that we support our early childhood community!
“Every child deserves the best chance to succeed,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “That means we have to support families, early childhood teachers, and all those who have an impact on early childhood development.” 
 The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development.
 Congressman David Price’s Facebook Page. March 6, 2020 Facebook Post.
 Governor of North Carolina. North Carolina awarded $56 million to promote children’s well-being and early learning.