Testimony by Jennifer Iverson:
I am Jennifer Iverson, Executive Director of Prince George’s Child Resource Center.
Thank you for the chance to talk to you tonight and thank you for coming to Prince George’s County.
Commissioners, I have some comments to add for your consideration so that we can prepare our students to compete in the workforce and the global economy. We know you know that quality early childhood experiences lay the foundation. Quality child care programs, and parents’ ability to access those programs, is critical. Last year only 34% of children in Prince George’s County demonstrated kindergarten readiness. We must do more, and I appreciate that we are at a crucial moment and that you’re considering how to do more and reach more.
As Maryland moves to expand access to pre-kindergarten, I urge us all to recognize that parents, schools, and other public institutions have a valuable partner in the child care programs that are already operating in our communities.
• The whole community benefits from partnering with these early childhood educators. They can provide continuous, seamless care for infants, preschoolers, and schoolage children with
smaller class size.
• Support for child care increases opportunities for children to learn and grow socially in a positive environment, and is also connected to family economic success.
• Community-based early care and education providers have the classroom space, and the relationships with families, to comprehensively meet the needs of those they serve.
We offer the following recommendations:
• Invest is a diverse delivery system so that all children have access to quality early learning environments that meets their families’ needs
• Invest to increase subsidy payment rates to providers to retain and grow the number of participants in Maryland EXCELS.
• Create a new position to enforce licensure requirements and refer unlicensed programs to Office of Child Care and local resource centers who can support them as they become licensed.
• Prioritize high-needs communities to ensure funding goes where it is needed most, and ensure eligibility policy is meeting the real needs of families in Maryland.
I urge you to look at the states that have built partnerships and mixed delivery into their preK policies, and while we are building and growing the right system for Maryland, ensure at the same time that a robust child care system is sustained. This is crucial for working parents and for employers and for the state’s economy.
Prince George’s Child Resource Center and our sister Resource Centers around the state will have a major role to play in ramping up the quality and accountability requirements that diverse delivery will demand from child care programs. Providers already rely on us to support their quest for quality and need our leaders to continue to make investments in their work.
When we work together, and connect these different ideas together, we can reverse troubling trends and make a huge difference for children, families, and for Maryland.