Fort Worth

Texas advocates say quality child care is critical to academic success

File: Texas children advocates say quality child care is critical to academic success.
File: Texas children advocates say quality child care is critical to academic success. Star-Telegram

Quality child-care programs designed to help economically vulnerable youngsters are critical for academic success, Texas children’s advocates said Tuesday as they discussed priority issues for the 2017 legislative session.

Many experts are putting attention on early child-care programs as they try to determine which programs are helping youngsters be kindergarten-ready.

“There needs to be high-quality education going on from parenting all the way up to third grade,” said Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of the nonprofit organization Children At Risk.

The Texas nonprofit, which has offices in Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston, is releasing a new report on child-care assistance available through state entities such as the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Education Agency. The study is called “The Early Investment Project: Subsidized Child Care in Texas.”

The study, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, takes a look at Texas’ child-care subsidy system, which provides about $500 million per year for child-care aid to low-income working families. About 100,000 Texas youngsters are served through the program on average per day, according to Children At Risk.

A final report will be available in upcoming weeks to policymakers, school districts and early child-care advocates. In the meantime, Children At Risk is mapping out policy recommendations to take to the upcoming 85th session of the Texas Legislature. Among the recommendations is creating a teaching certificate that focuses on early childhood through third grade and creating a parents task force.

“There is a lot of rigorous, robust research around the birth to age 5 developmental stage,” said Shay Everitt, assistant director for public policy and early education for Children At Risk. “Eighty-five percent of the brain physically develops during that stage, but also in the first few years, these neural connections are formed at a more rapid rate than at any other time and so really it is building the architecture on which all future learning occurs. That’s happening in these critical years, and so they have to be in a good environment.”

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1

Putting the focus on quality child care for low-income families

$500 million: the estimated amount of federal dollars Texas gets to help low-income working families with child care

$34 million the estimated amount that Tarrant County gets through the Tarrant County Workforce Development Board

142,500 number of children under age 5 in Tarrant County

25,785 the estimated number of youngsters, ages 0 to 5, living in poverty in Tarrant County

5,505 average number of children served per day with child-care subsidizes in Tarrant County

Sources: Children At Risk, Growing Up in North Texas 2016: A Community Assessment for Tarrant County