For our youngest and most vulnerable children, high quality early care and education (ECE) can positively impact children from birth through age three, setting the stage for later life success. ECE supports have been shown to be especially effective as compared to the lesser impact of later remedial education and interventions. The report by Advancement Project entitled The Early Care and Education Landscape in Los Angeles County: Access, Workforce, and Quality (ECE Landscape Report) uncovers an alarming picture of vastly unequal opportunities among infants and toddlers in Los Angeles County. Despite the challenges facing our youngest Angelenos, many members of the LA delegation of the California legislature are unfamiliar with the challenges faced by their district’s infants and toddlers and their families, and still others have reported that concrete and local policy recommendations would be helpful for their understanding of how to engage on the issue.
Through the Los Angeles Delegation Advocacy Project (LADAP) Advancement Project’s objectives were to:
- Recruit, train and activate a coalition of parents and early learning supporters who would develop a policy platform to better serve LA’s infants and toddlers.
- Create policy briefs that would offer key legislators individualized snapshots of the state of infant and toddler ECE opportunities in their individual districts, alongside parent stories of the challenges that they and their children have faced as a result of these shortages.
- Educate and inform members of the Los Angeles delegation of the California legislature so that they would champion greater investment in LA’s infants and toddlers.
We have been leveraging Advancement Project’s pre-existing family engagement work in the Southeast cities and South Los Angeles, the two areas of most severe shortages of infant and toddler care. We have trained these parent leaders in policy and advocacy at the state level, so that they can play an active role in shaping policy recommendations about their own families and communities and representing themselves in legislative meetings and hearings.
Advancement Project’s policy team used the ECE Landscape Report to map and illustrate in concrete, analytic terms the critical gaps in infant-toddler ECE access in their individual districts, alongside access and quality gaps in the county overall. To accompany the data analysis of gaps and GIS mapping, we marshalled scientific, educational and economic research to support the case for early investment and also developed user-friendly talking points to guide parents and other ECE supporters in interacting with legislative decision makers.
We’ve brought together the parent groups’ initial policy recommendations with policy recommendations elicited from professional ECE advocates and ECE providers from The Los Angeles Preschool Advocacy Initiative (LAPAI), focusing on areas of shared concern and commonality. We utilized these shared policy recommendations and policy briefs in initial relationship-building meetings and learning sessions between key members of the LA delegation and their staff, and LAPAI members and parent leaders. We also coordinated with Early Edge California, a key ally, who are developed strategic communications about these same issues. We provided our parent leaders with the messages that they felt resonated most; and also shared data and coordinated with the organization as they led work in pushing for an LAUSD infant-toddler center in Southeast L.A. County.
Lastly, we leveraged Advancement Project’s extensive political network in Sacramento to build the case for increased investment in infants and toddlers through testimony at legislative hearings, letters of concern, and continued efforts to educate and inform the legislature.
The unique strength of this policy and advocacy work will come from the combined efforts of parents, providers, and professional advocates.