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Volume XI, Number 1, Spring 2005
Issue Topic: Complementary Learning
Lynn Mitchell, from Corporate Voices for Working Families, describes how businesses can promote policies and practices that support working families, using partnerships between private and public sectors.
The day-to-day challenges working families face represent a high cost to the business bottom line. To reduce these costs, many American corporations invest in supports for working families that increase workforce retention, productivity, and loyalty. However, businesses have learned that, despite these investments, they cannot individually address all the issues faced by working families: significant new action and partnerships are required.
Corporate Voices for Working Families is a nonpartisan, nonprofit coalition of 50 leading corporations that builds bipartisan public- and private-sector support for policies that strengthen working families. Corporate Voices supports innovative and sustainable solutions to working-family issues by (a) promoting family-friendly workplace practices; (b) communicating the value of investments in working-family policies; (c) bridging public, private, and nonprofit sectors on these policies; (d) providing a forum for learning, partnership, and networking; (e) demonstrating a commitment to corporate citizenship; and (f) tracking emerging policy trends and their impact.
Corporate Voices for Working Families' Early Childhood Education Policy Principles
Early childhood education plays a crucial role in bridging the performance gap between children from lower socioeconomic groups and their wealthier counterparts. Successful early childhood education systems emphasize the following principles (principles are not listed in order or according to priority):1. Learning – viewing children’s learning as the central mission
2. Standards – articulating standards for children’s learning and program quality that align with state K–12 academic standards
3. Teachers – ensuring teaching staffs have the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to help young children enter school prepared to succeed
4. Parents – supporting parents as their children’s first teachers and providing those who choose to enroll their children with high quality program options
5. Accountability – embracing accountability for measurable results
6. Partnerships – building crosscutting partnerships to govern, finance, sustain, and improve the system
Supporting Families Through Policy
The business case for investments in children—both in terms of early learning and after school care—has not been articulated clearly in either federal or state policy discussions. In today's world, however, where education and skill levels determine future earnings, the costs of not taking action on these issues are far too great to ignore. Corporate Voices adds to these discussions by developing policy statements that convey the importance of investments in children from a business perspective.¹
Corporate Voices' first policy statement, Early Childhood Education: A Call to Action From the Business Community, released in partnership with the Business Roundtable,² recognizes that the education of young children is both a business issue and a family concern, and exemplifies how a coalition representing a unique business voice, along with workplace supports, can influence policy and practice. The statement contains a set of six principles for successful early childhood programs (see the box). Principles are being used to assess existing early childhood programs, consider philanthropic priorities, evaluate early childhood policy proposals (e.g., preschool, Head Start), and formulate policy positions.
Corporate Voices' second policy statement, After School for All, outlines the critical role high quality after school programs play in increasing chances of success in both school and life, and contains recommendations for policy initiatives that will create quality after school systems.³
Supporting Families Through Practice
To encourage replication and promote sound business policies—which often apply in the public sector—Corporate Voices shares, with policymakers and the greater business community, best practices on creative solutions to the needs of working families. Bank of America, for example, offers a program for low-to-moderate income employees that reimburses costs incurred for child care. The program, Child Care Plus, helps employees pay for various forms of child care by reimbursing a portion of the costs for each child receiving care. Child Care Plus began in 1989 in response to an employee study that discovered a strong link between turnover and child care issues. Due to the scope of child care assistance, Bank of America spends 80% of its work/life budget on this initiative. Since the program's inception, Bank of America's human resources staff has reported that Child Care Plus has had a positive impact on employee retention and productivity, because parents are less preoccupied with child care matters.
¹ Other Corporate Voices focus areas are elder care, the way we work, and family economic stability.
² The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from 150 major companies committed to public policy, cultivates vigorous economic growth and a dynamic global economy. www.businessroundtable.org
³ Both policy statements are available on the Corporate Voices website: www.cvworkingfamilies.org.
Corporate Voices for Working Families
1899 L Street NW, Suite 250
Washington, DC 20036