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Santa Barbara County Foundations Join Invest in US Campaign to Support Early Childhood Education

Five Santa Barbara County-based foundations have joined the launch of Invest in US, a national campaign and challenge issued Wednesday by President Barack Obama to business leaders, philanthropists, advocates and public officials to build a better nation through high-quality early childhood programs for children from birth to age 5.

These foundations join dozens of corporations, foundations and nonprofits that have also pledged significant commitments — financial and otherwise — to making sure that more children and communities have high-quality early childhood education programs.

Santa Barbara County funders, including the Orfalea Foundation, the James S. Bower Foundation, the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Hutton Parker Foundation and the Towbes Family Foundation, pledged a total of $3.5 million to a portfolio of new initiatives that will:

» Support a place-based comprehensive approach aimed at significantly improving school readiness in targeted communities

» Expand access to high quality early childhood education that supports the development of cognitive and social-emotional skills and prepares children for kindergarten

» Support family and center-based quality accreditation

» Create a demonstration network of 40 high-quality early childhood centers that model innovate Preschool Food and Outdoor Classroom practices

» Provide high quality preschool services to at-risk children and their families

The local foundations are represented at the White House Summit by Orfalea Foundation founder Natalie Orfalea and Early Childhood Education Director Adrianna Foss.

“We’re thrilled that something we and our partners have been working on for over 15 years has gained traction at the national level," Foss said. "The returns on these investments are clear. Not only are these investments critically important to our youngest learners and hard-working families, they will also produce better education, health, social and economic outcomes, as well as reduce the need for social spending.”

The Invest in US challenge, announced by President Obama on Wednesday at the White House Summit on Early Education, is organized by the First Five Years Fund and its philanthropic partners. Invest in US catalyzes the overwhelming cross-sector support for early childhood education. In his last two State of the Union addresses, the President made early childhood education a key policy priority.

Since his initial call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America in his 2013 State of the Union Address, the President has proposed a series of new investments in early childhood education, and more than 30 states and cities have established new programs or expanded access to preschool. Just this year, the president told the nation that he would bring together elected officials, business leaders and philanthropists to galvanize efforts and help more children access the high-quality early childhood education they need. The Invest in US challenge answers that call.

Investment in early childhood development is a critical component of the local funders’ mission to give every child in our community the best possible start in life, as high-quality birth to five programs result in better education, health, social and economic outcomes. Education researchers, teachers, economists and public health experts agree that the foundation for success begins long before children enter formal K-12 schooling. Those committing to Invest in US are building a better nation by helping to create programs that develop strong children and families.

Invest in US also comes on the heels of growing public and private investment in early childhood development. In addition to the announcement of significant new private sector funding, the departments of Education and Health and Human Services plan to invest $750 million in new grants for early learning programs. Numerous public leaders at the state and local level have also committed to making early childhood programs a policy priority.

Invest in US commitments are intended to:

» Strengthen public systems at the federal, state and local levels to ensure continuous quality improvements in parental education, home visiting, Early Head Start, quality child care, Head Start and preschool programs

» Integrate health and developmental screenings with early learning to provide parents with the information they need to optimize their child’s physical, emotional and intellectual development

» Improve the training, continuing education, professional development and living wages of early childhood educators

» Support greater access to evidence-based programs that support parents and families in fostering their children’s development

» Promote and share ongoing program innovation and improvement, especially for those programs supporting parents and informal caregivers

A full list of commitments announced Wednesday can be found by clicking here.

— Dean Zatkowsky is the communications manager for the Orfalea Foundation.

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