Supporting Childcare and Early Childhood Education—During and After COVID-19

April 28, 2020

As Arkansas moves towards a staged “re-opening” of the state, a childcare center in Malvern is still waiting patiently on thermometers to be delivered by Amazon two weeks after they were ordered, and parents have had to donate toilet paper to a daycare in Mabelvale.

A center in Brookland has struggled to overcome limitations from the local grocery store that would prevent them from purchasing their usual amounts of milk and food. And, centers from all over the state have applied for funds from the federal Paycheck Protection Program to help support their staffs. Some have received helpful loans, and many have not.

While every part of our economy has struggled, childcare is the lynchpin that allows essential workers to work and deserves even more support than the industry is currently receiving. Recently, the Arkansas Early Childhood Association (AECA) offered guidance to support Arkansas families and protect existing childcare capacity both during and after the COVID-19 challenge.

The AECA encouraged state policymakers to place public health at the forefront of decision-making AND at the same time sustain our childcare system by:

  1. Prioritizing childcare services for essential personnel for whom remote work is not an option.
  2. Maintaining the human, programmatic, and financial infrastructure of the childcare sector so it can meet the needs of families as they begin adapting to an eventual relaxation in guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  3. Encouraging strict compliance with the CDC’s indoor social distancing directives, as advised by the Governor, the Arkansas Department of Health, and the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. These directives advise that classroom groups should be limited to 10 or less people, including adults.
  4. Ensuring reasonable access to necessary cleaning and health-related supplies, which make adherence to the CDC directives possible, as well as access to food.

ForwARd Arkansas supports this guidance and notes that Arkansans’ concerns match those of people across the country. According to a recent survey by the Bipartisan Policy Center,  43% of essential workers need childcare relief, nearly half of those surveyed said they are worried their childcare provider won’t be open, and 75% are concerned about their child’s potential exposure to COVID-19.

If our state is to have a childcare sector that can support all other sectors after the current public health crisis has ended, childcare must be treated as an invaluable component of the infrastructure that supports the overall Arkansas economy.

Following are some helpful resources for additional information during this public health crisis:

  1. Arkansas Early Childhood Association
  2. Arkansas Department of Health
  3. Arkansas Department of Human Services 

ForwARd Arkansas will continue to share updates, as well as highlight opportunities for the development and broad implementation of innovative and equitable solutions that will ultimately strengthen Arkansas’ educational system post-COVID.

We welcome your ideas and examples of school districts in Arkansas or elsewhere who are successfully tackling these the COVID-19 challenge with innovative approaches. Share them with us on social media or at info@forwardarkansas.org.