Access to high-quality early learning is critical for ensuring children from low-income households are provided with a strong academic foundation when they enroll in Kindergarten. In Marion County today, there is an insufficient number of high-quality seats available, and the cost of high-quality programs can be an impediment for some families. A lack of early learning programs also impacts the ability of employees with children to remain in the workforce.
Employers of all sizes should establish an early learning employee benefit program, stratified by family income, that improves the affordability and accessibility of high-quality early learning. An early learning employee benefit program could consist of some or all of the following:
- An Education Savings Account (structured like a Health Savings Account) providing an employer contribution to match (partially or fully) an employee’s contribution to their child’s early learning program.
- Reserved seats at local earlyl earning programs.
- Investment in on-site or near-site early learning programs.
- Back-up care services.
- Early learning tuition scholarships.
Each of these benefit options would help grow demand for or help underwrite the costs to operate early learning programs, in turn helping to grow the supply of high-quality providers. Easier access to high-quality early learning programs has the added benefit of supporting working parents and enabling them to work full time.