Bill targets crisis in early childhood education

As a manufacturer, it's critical that I field enough well-skilled staff to cover my company's many operations, from custom metal stampings and assembly work.

It's also helpful to remember that my employees' successes rely partly on the training and capacity of many other workers, both inside and outside our sector - including those in early childhood settings.

These teachers and the pre-K and child care centers that employ them, help develop a foundation for our future workforce. They do so by nurturing children's early math and science skills as well as non-technical abilities such as creativity. Plus, these programs are essential supports for working parents. That makes their quality and quantity, a top concern for countless business fields.

Unfortunately, Illinois' current capacity for preparing these educators is losing ground. Annual projections show nearly seven times more vacancies opening than there are early childhood bachelor's degrees awarded to help fill those positions - an unsustainable challenge for our state.

Legislation in Springfield provides one important answer. SB1832/HB3619 would extend to community colleges the ability to grant four-year degrees in early childhood. This would greatly expand training opportunities and allow more flexibility for teacher candidates. And there's precedent in nearly two-dozen other states that already allow BA programs among two-year schools.

The ReadyNation business-leader network supports this important step toward resolving our mounting early childhood teacher crisis. And we should go further, raising the chronically low compensation that fails to reflect the value of these educators to children, families and our entire economy.

Keith Krutz, President

IMS Buhrke Olson LLC

Arlington Heights

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