The 2017 Birth to Five Water Cooler Conference was hosted by the Advancement Project in Sacramento on October 2nd and 3rd, 2017 . The theme of this year’s conference was Building on progress in early care and education in California and, for the first time, included a conversation with all candidates for California Governor.

This was the 10th year anniversary of the conference! Topics discussed included:

  • A national analysis of the state of ECE access, long-term strategies to closing the opportunity gap and the state of the ECE policy landscape.
  • Supporting the whole child from the start, elevated the developmental health and learning needs of California’s infants and toddlers and their families.
  • Expanding our thinking around quality ECE programs to reflect the diverse needs of our youngest learners, including dual language learners.
  • Strengthening ECE policy and advocacy with the voice of community and the lens of racial equity.
  • Building on ECE principles and pedagogy for greater birth-12 alignment that strengthens instructional practices for students beyond preschool.

The following are some highlights of the discussions that took place at the conference:

·       Be unapologetic and think big on behalf of children and our future

·       Public investment in Early Education had its biggest increase in California in 2016

·       We continue to operate at pre-Great Recession levels

·       Even though 0-3 represents approximately 30% of the state education budget, it was the area that received the biggest cut during the recession

·       64% of eligible children don’t have access to subsidized ECE programs in our state

·       Compensation of workforce is crucial for progress in our area

·       More support is needed for Dual Language Learners and full inclusion

·       Investment in prenatal to 3 y.o. (infant toddler) was highlighted and received special attention

·       Early Childhood Education needs to be part of every education policy for it to be successful

·       Changes need to come from the bottom up, not top to bottom. Cooperative play is also important when working together to influence public policy, especially to shape public opinion as the foundation for policy change

·       The number of child care providers continue to decrease in the state

·       The current funding system of child care promotes class and race segregation

In 2018, Advancement Project will combine both Water Cooler Conferences into one: the first annual Birth-to-12 Water Cooler conference! For more information, please visit their website. 

By Ericka O. Erickson and Ana Andrade-Wolf