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Here’s why YoungStar merits funding

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Ruth Schmidt
June 21, 2010

On Wednesday, the Joint Finance Committee will determine funding for YoungStar—Wisconsin’s proposed child care quality rating and improvement system. Full funding for YoungStar is essential and strategic for Wisconsin.


Here’s why:


--Quality child care is one of the best possible investments of public and private funds.


Studies reveal that children who experience quality early care are less likely to need remedial education, less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system and more likely to graduate from high school than their peers in lower quality care. At-risk children, in particular, are shown to have the most to gain or lose from the quality of care they receive.


Dr. James Heckman, an economist and Nobel Prize winner from the University of Chicago, has stated that “investing in quality early learning programs is the most efficient way to affect school and life success and to reduce social expenditures later.” Heckman’s work cites a return of up to $17 for every $1 spent on high-quality care.


--Wisconsin’s children deserve high-quality child care.


Today, more than 70 percent of Wisconsin’s children—from birth to age 5—receive care outside their homes. In the past decade, an explosion of research on brain development has identified practices that help children set a strong foundation that lasts into adulthood. Fostering and rewarding these best practices are key components of YoungStar.


--YoungStar resolves a major problem in the Wisconsin Shares child care system—a lack of measuring performance and quality.


How many businesses would invest close to $400 million in a system with no plan in place for measuring performance and quality? With YoungStar, child care programs throughout Wisconsin, especially those that participate in the “Wisconsin Shares” program, will be prompted to continuously improve quality of care and be rewarded for it.


YoungStar creates incentives for providers to improve services, particularly for low-income children; offer child care providers of low-income children higher payments for higher quality; and build on existing programs and services that already help improve quality.


--YoungStar will give parents comprehensive data on child care quality.


YoungStar will provide information on one of the most important decisions parents make—where to go for child care. Think of it as a “Consumer Reports” for Wisconsin child care.


--Quality rating systems have been field-tested and piloted in Wisconsin and in 20 other states.


Nationwide, 20 states have implemented child care quality rating and improvement systems similar to YoungStar. In Wisconsin, two successful pilot projects have been implemented.


The benefits of investing in quality child care are far reaching and affect us all. Businesses and parents depend on it, and child care providers across the state are ready for increased investments in quality efforts.


On Wednesday, we urge all members of Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee to do what is wise for all Wisconsin citizens—implement and approve full funding for YoungStar.


Ruth Schmidt is executive director of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, 744 Williamson St., Suite 200, Madison, WI 53703; phone (608) 729-1042; e-mail ruschmidt@wisconsinearlychildhood.org; website wisconsinearlychildhood.org.

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