While some think early childhood development rests solely on the shoulders of parents, there are ways in which societal factors can hinder early learning. These include lack of access to quality health care and child care as well as exposure to toxic stress and poverty-related trauma. Research shows quality early childhood care and education helps prevent lifelong health problems such as obesity, heart disease and substance abuse.
From service providers to business and community leaders, there must be a concerted effort to invest in our chil dren beginning at birth and even before.
You as a voter can also ensure that your community and our state are represented by elected officials who understand the importance of early childhood. This is the opportune time for registered voters to ask candidates how they plan to invest in the long-term economic success of our state.
Here are some questions you can ask that may help discern if a candidate places appropriate importance on early childhood:
Issue 1: Affordable child care for working parent(s) Question: How do you propose helping working parents afford safe, quality child care?
Did you know: As a result of 2011 funding cuts by the Oklahoma Legislature, the state Department of Human Services considered reducing child care subsidies for low-income families.
Stat: 61 percent of children age 6 or younger live in households in which all parents are employed.
Issue 2: Importance of early health and career education Question: Would you support health and career education as state-mandated school curricula?
Did you know: In 2011, House Bill 1270 sought to provide health education to students in grades 6-8. The legislation failed on the House floor by only four votes.
Stat: Oklahoma is one of only two states that does not have health education as part of the school curriculum.
Issue 3: Programs that support families for prevention of child abuse and neglect Question: Would you support a provision of parenting and continuing education resources for at-risk parents?
Did you know: State funding for child abuse prevention was cut by 14.4 percent between 2008 and 2012.
Stat: There are more than 13,000 confirmed cases of child abuse in Oklahoma annually.
Issue 4: Early childhood investment and economic development linkage Did you know: Early childhood shapes our state’s long-term economic growth.
Stat: For every $1 spent on early childhood programs and resources, $7-$10 is returned to a state’s economy.
There is no better time than now to ask the crucial questions about candidates’ stances on early childhood education in our state.
Knutson is vice president of Potts Family Foundation.
Opinions expressed on the commentary page, in letters to the editor and elsewhere in this newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ownership or management.