To ensure our work is effective and impactful, the Wisconsin Partnership is committed to the following four principles that will guide our decision making and action.
Real, sustainable policy change requires finding common ground.
As local partnerships comprised of a wide range of community stakeholders, from business leaders to community groups, municipal decision makers to service providers, we know that real, lasting progress only happens with buy-in from those with the most at stake in decisions. Absent that broad buy-in, change is unlikely to get off the ground, much less stick. That’s why we’re committed to finding and advancing common ground among our partners, even—and especially—when partners do not see eye to eye on other issues.
The Wisconsin Partnership is similarly committed to finding common ground in state policy across the four local partnerships. We will be driven by this common ground, not by politics or the ever-changing landscape of state leadership. Our work will be explicitly bipartisan and aimed at securing policy change that will last regardless of political shifts in the Capitol.
State resources must be invested wisely on behalf of families and communities.
The evidence is clear: there are wide and deep benefits to quality early childhood systems. Indeed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation calls quality, affordable child care “A two-generation solution to support our economy,” one that: “Strengthens the current workforce by increasing postsecondary education completion, raising workforce participation and productivity, and helping businesses attract and retain talent; and is a wise investment in the future workforce by laying a solid foundation for future skill development, including the hard and soft skills necessary for workforce success, and allowing children to enter school ready to learn and thrive.”1U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, The Business Case for High-Quality Childcare, https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/
And according to researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank, cost-benefit ratios from quality early childhood programs “range from $4 to as high as $16 for every dollar invested.”2Rob Gruenwald, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Investments in Young Children Yield High Public Returns, Fall 2016, https://www.philadelphiafed.org/community-development/publications/cascade/93/04_investments-in-young-children
This evidence, coupled with the lived experience of our partners, is why our local communities have prioritized early childhood care and education. State policy must be similarly driven by evidence, especially when it comes to critical decisions about how to invest scarce state resources.
The Wisconsin Partnership is committed to evaluating every state spending decision based on its impact on families and communities, and supporting only those that represent high-impact, cost-effective investments.
All children deserve access to high-quality early care and education.
Our communities have each made significant progress in improving early childhood supports and systems, such as increasing access to developmental screeners and quality childcare and raising early literacy rates. But despite this progress, there are still significant barriers to all children—especially low-income children and children of color—accessing high-quality early childhood supports. This is true statewide and in each of our communities, which collectively serve 25 percent of Wisconsinites age 0 to 8 and 70 percent of low-income Black and Latinx children in that age range.
As just one example of these barriers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that no more than 7 percent of family income should be devoted to childcare. But in Wisconsin, infant childcare costs $12,567 per year, which accounts for 83 percent of the annual income for a minimum wage worker. In other words, without support, a minimum wage worker will need to be employed full-time from January to October just to pay for infant care.3Economic Policy Institute, Child Care Costs in the United States, https://www.epi.org/child-care-costs-in-the-united-states/
The Wisconsin Partnership is committed to identifying and eliminating barriers to all children—regardless of race/ethnicity, income, and family background—accessing high-quality early care and education. Any policy solutions must be impactful for families in our four communities, which are diverse in size, demographics, and geography, and must work for the state as a whole.
Good, accessible, and timely information should be at the heart of all decision making.
Across our communities, partners are asking fundamental questions about how well early childhood systems and supports are working. Healthcare providers are asking whether children who could benefit from early intervention services are getting them. Child care leaders are asking how the children they serve fare in school settings. Schools are asking for more and better information about the pre-school experiences of their incoming students.
But too often, institutions charged with serving young children and their families don’t have access to the information that would help them to improve. Worse, parents and caregivers are left to navigate a maze of programs and services without the information they need to make the best possible choices for their children.
The Wisconsin Partnership is committed to advancing quality information systems. And, critically, we are committed to ensuring that information doesn’t just sit on a shelf, but is used to inform decision making at all levels.
1 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, The Business Case for High-Quality Childcare, https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/
2 Rob Gruenwald, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Investments in Young Children Yield High Public Returns, Fall 2016, https://www.philadelphiafed.org/community-development/publications/cascade/93/04_investments-in-young-children
3 Economic Policy Institute, Child Care Costs in the United States, https://www.epi.org/child-care-costs-in-the-united-states/