Should Dayton be investing in child care?

Michelle Obama and I are in total agreement, according to a story in today’s New York Times:

As first lady, Mrs. Obama has said, she plans to make herself an advocate for working parents, particularly military families, urging better access to child care for all. Trying to juggle public duties with two young children, she will be a living illustration of the very issue she describes.

A Family Expected to Balance State Dinners With Sleepovers – NYTimes.com.

When I first ran for Mayor one of my proposals (note: I actually proposed things, imagine that) was to build 24 hour subsidized day care for working citizens of Dayton and subsidized to a lesser extent- for those who just came to the city to work. My goals were two-fold:

  • To differentiate Dayton and give it a competitive advantage in recruiting employers and employees, since good childcare can be expensive, especially to lower income, lower skilled workers. With Dayton’s average household income hovering around the poverty line, it was intended to help give citizens a chance to break the chain of poverty.
  • To help prepare children for lifelong learning. Headstart programs don’t start early enough, with key developmental processes taking place between birth and three.

Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and AmericaTo further justify the value of an emphasis on early childhood education, one only needs to look at the work of:

educational visionary Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children’s Zone—currently serving more than 7,000 children and encompassing 97 city blocks—represents an audacious effort to end poverty within underserved communities. Canada’s radical experiment is predicated upon changing everything in these communities—creating an interlocking web of services targeted at the poorest and least likely to succeed children: establishing programs to prepare and support parents, a demanding k-8 charter school and a range of after-school programs for high school students.
Whatever it Takes

And although I only heard of Geoff’s work recently, on “This American Life” I’ve been convinced that Dayton isn’t going to see the return of a robust economy until we start doing things very different, and place a strong emphasis on educational attainment and intellectual pursuits. We didn’t get to be the birthplace of aviation, the home to so many great inventors and becoming a model of a new form of government (the City Manager system) by accepting the status quo.

We’re in the process of completing the last of our new school buildings, we overwhelmingly passed Issue 52, the new school levy- even though many of us are suffering financially thanks to powers way above our pay grade, and we have a new school superintendent who seems quite focused on promoting strong new leaders to these schools (I’m lucky to be friends with two new principals in DPS).

If there was ever a time to begin a radical new early childhood education program it would be now- while the Federal Government is looking to invest in job creation, new programs that support education and ways to jump start the rust belt economy.

Michelle Obama- are you listening? Want to help?

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