Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Effort Urges St. Louis Business Community to Champion Investment in Early Childhood

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Effort Urges St. Louis Business Community to Champion Investment in Early Childhood

Article excerpt

More than half of the region's child care centers are subpar, and the ones that are high quality are often too expensive for parents who need them the most.

On Tuesday, PNC Bank will begin a campaign with the St. Louis Regional Early Childhood Council to draw awareness to the state of child care in St. Louis. Michael Scully, St. Louis regional president of PNC, hopes business leaders will take a greater interest.

"We need to expose this as a political issue," said Scully. "I think we need to expose to our corporate brethren the cost of not doing this."

Scully will be the keynote speaker at a public forum Tuesday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Nine Network of Public Media focusing on the importance of services for young children and families, and steps the region needs to take to better invest in its youngest residents. Those services include quality child care and home-visit programs for new parents.

Local early-childhood advocates say St. Louis has fallen behind many other urban areas, particularly in the delivery of affordable quality child care. More than half of the region's established day cares are not high-quality, said Dawn Winkler, CEO of United 4 Children.

Other cities have seen businesses rally on the issue. In 2011, two business leaders in the Kansas City area formed the Alliance for Childhood Education after having difficulty finding quality local workers. The nonprofit immediately focused on a lack of funding in Missouri for early childhood initiatives, said President Torree Pederson.

In St. Louis, PNC, Emerson, Ameren and a few other companies have made important contributions. But, overall, business support has not developed in a meaningful way, Winkler said.

"It's not about getting their money, it's about using their clout to work at the state level," Winkler said. "Early childhood development is not going to be funded by private business. It has to be funded by the state."

Tuesday's forum will make reference to a documentary series airing on PBS titled "The Raising of America." It argues the U.S. has failed to adequately invest in young children and families, leaving many children particularly those in poverty without key services to enhance early brain development and socialization. …

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