KPCW’s coverage of Early Childhood Education continues with a spotlight on the Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah. They use data and science to show that investment in the early years of a child’s life delivers socio-economic benefits for the families and community through the lifetime of the child.
Sorenson Impact Center Director Allison Nicholson says they work on projects that bring data, impact investing, policy development and storytelling together to address social inequities like access to affordable quality early childhood care and education. Their partners include an array of foundations, nonprofits, and government entities. She says quality childcare is a universal problem. They work with the Pritzker Early Childhood Foundation to address inequities and access.
“And we’ve been involved in the foundation for a few years and they're actually very specifically looking at prenatal to three and they are making grants to states and communities to help them build their prenatal to three initiatives. And they're very much buying into the brain science and the return on investment and how states and communities can invest early.”
Recently the University of Utah received recognition from United Way of Salt Lake City because of the work they’ve done through the Center to advance equity and childcare access for children and families.
Nicholson says they work with foundations on community strategies to analyze data and provide local early childhood programs. Federal and state funding heavily subsidizes K-12, but not early childhood education
“So, therefore it falls upon the individual to cover the entire cost. It is extremely expensive. The higher the quality is, the more expensive it becomes, which increases the inequities in access, no question. I think it's about political will and I think that's one of the wonderful things about the University of Utah as an entity being recognized as a Changemaker specifically for early childhood because we've got to get out of the mentality about higher ed is only thinking about higher ed and K -12 is only thinking about K-12. Everybody collectively has to see the importance of early childhood regardless of where they sit on the spectrum of education or society because it ends up affecting everybody.”
Nicholson says the data on children’s readiness for kindergarten shows how critical early care and education is for future success.
“There are entities out there that measure what they call childcare desert. And you know, you can argue about the methodology, but I think anyway that you calculate it you can see that child care is a huge issue in this country and in this state. In all our communities there is not enough supply to meet the demand and there's not enough supply of high quality to meet the demand to get all our kids’ kindergarten ready both academically and social emotional needs.”
Nicholson points to a recent study by the Sorenson Impact Center. The link to the recently completed strategic plan can be found here.
A report on Child Care Access by the Department of Workforce Services – Office of Child Care can be found here.
KPCW News reports on issues affecting children aged zero to 3-years-old is brought to you by the early childhood fund at the Park City Community Foundation. For more information go to earlychildhoodalliance.net.