Chamber Conference panel on early learning focuses on importance of childcare and education


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – WCTV is covering the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Community Conference in Amelia Island during the weekend of August 13 through 15.

One breakout panel was titled Our Kids First: Early Learning and Education is Everyone’s Business. Panelists say childcare and education issues affect everyone because children currently in school are the future of Tallahassee’s workforce.

During the Talent 2030 panel, experts spoke about the importance of businesses creating pathways for current students to join the workforce upon graduation.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna said he’s focused on Early Childhood education; he cited statistics that show 95% of a child’s brain is developed before the age of 5.

“This is a huge priority for me,” said Hanna. “The achievement gap is there in kindergarten, that’s where the gap starts. We spend the next 12 years trying to close that gap. We work really hard at it, but at the end of the day, there’s still a gap.”

Hanna said he’s excited about the creation of the Leon County Children’s Services Council.

“I am fully committed for us to engage with young parents, engage with private providers in our community to help our youngest citizens in their K through 12 experience,” said Hanna.

Brooke Brunner with Leon County Schools Early Learning Education said the next school year is likely to show more gaps in economically disadvantaged school populations, illustrating the need for quality early learning education.

“We see this, recognizing that a digital platform is not the best way to teach 3, 4, and 5-year-old children,” said Brunner, pointing to the pandemic as a major issue.

According to the presentation, 62% of children are ready to learn when they arrive in Kindergarten; in non-Title I schools, the number is 76%. However, in Title I schools, it’s just 43%.

Brunner said quality early learning is more than daycare or pre-kindergarten.

“It’s structured and complex opportunities to engage with children in what appears to be play that prepares them for what they’ll encounter in kindergarten,” she explained.

Liz Murphy, the CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend says businesses can help by bringing their group into offices to educate employees on the services the coalition provides.

“Childcare impacts all of us,” said Murphy. “You’re not only employing employees; you’re also taking care of their families. What you do matters. It absolutely matters to your employees.”

Liza McFadden from the Children’s Services Council updated the assembled group about its progress; they are currently working on a needs assessment.

She said the first round of tax funds will be around 8 million dollars.

“How we invest it and how we look at the return on investment is critical,” said McFadden.