Illinois Business Leaders Say More Investments Needed in Early Childhood Education

Mar 5, 2021

ReadyNation members see the inequity which harms the development of Black and brown children. WCBU student reporter Jordan Mead tells us why they feel it's urgent to meet the needs of these children.

Illinois human resources veteran Joni Duncan says there are important factors about child development that we must understand.

"Research makes it increasingly clear that many workforce fundamentals are seeded during the earliest years of learning and life. From technical skills like math, to more social-emotional skills like creativity and teamwork," Duncan said.

Duncan said too many Illinois children do not benefit from early learning opportunities they need to develop their potential.

The report says workforce racial disparities, extreme poverty, and higher unemployment rates can all be traced back to a lack of early preparation for school in children of color.

Rudy Valdez, engineering manager for Kaney Aerospace in Rockford, said to create equity and benefit all of society, investment in children's lives must come early.

"When we start addressing these inequities, and finding solutions, and bringing everybody to where they should be, that's when we're going to take off and grow as a country," Valdez said.

ReadyNation creates efforts to ensuring support for children from birth to age 3 and in preschool to create better opportunities for families.

Joshua Gunn, president and CEO of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, said the community must unify to combat the disadvantages that brown and Black families face, and be honest about the systemic barriers that exist.

"To really understand what equity means and what it requires, it requires us to place emphasis in the place where there is the greatest need. Right? And in this case, the data tells us that it's very clear that the greatest need in term of kindergarten readiness, and really across a number of different metrics, is in the Black and brown community," Gunn said.

The ReadyNation report concludes that by emphasizing the importance in allowing the growing brown and Black population, more workforce development will move the economy to reach its highest potential.

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