Hendrickson attends Alliance for Early Success's Elevating State Policies Conference
November 14, 2019
Corrine Hendrickson, owner of Corrine's Little Explorers Family Child Care Center, joined approximately 50 other early childhood educators who were nominated and selected to attend the Alliance for Early Success's Elevating State Policies for/with the Early Education Profession conference in Milwaukee, WI, at the end of September. The educators joined about 130 state political leaders, advocates and national experts from twenty-four states to gather together and advance the early care and education field.
Corrine said she was, "honored to be nominated and appreciated that the educators were the focus of the conference, because this was the first time I have attended a conference where those of us who are working with the children were the focus. In the past I have attended conferences or meetings where I was the only educator in the room. Everyone there was talking about what we needed as a profession without actually taking the time to ask us. I felt that the assumptions they made and plans that were created not only didn't address the issues, but, in fact, created more problems than they solved. At this conference not only did they create a seat at the table, but we were told to pull up an armchair, make ourselves comfortable, and speak first."
The conference had breakout sessions and discussions about how states can grow a competent, diverse, and well-supported early care and education profession with equity as a core value. Policy makers, advocates, political leaders, and experts gathered specifically to learn from educators what they need to create and sustain high quality environments. Finally, the conference created connections and provided leadership opportunities for the educators at both the state level and national level to do the work to educate parents, politicians, and businesses about how integral and important child care is to the economy that will required to make the necessary changes. These changes will be to ensure access so that all children can grow, learn, and succeed in high-quality early child care environments.
Hendrickson enjoyed meeting people from across the country and listening to how early childhood educators are advocating for everything from affordable insurance and higher wages to creating a bilingual family child care program to ensure the native Wisconsin Ho-Chunk language is not lost. Because she is a frequent host of the documentary No Small Matter, she went to a breakout session about how the state of Nebraska, with the support of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, has been using the screenings to collect early childhood educators' (birth-8 educators) stories of the type of support needed and the positive impact early care and education has on communities. Then compiling and taking these stories to public screenings of the documentary and getting community, family, and businesses to support early childhood funding at the state level via a combination of government and philanthropic investments.
On Wednesday, the day started with a panel with Policymakers and making the political case for investing. This was a bipartisan panel that included a former family child care provider from Iowa turned Iowa General assembly Democrat Representative Tracy Ehlert, and Kimber Liedl, Office of Wisconsin Senate Majority Speaker Fitzgerald. Ms. Ehlert emphasized that representatives must listen to their constituents and that people need to participate by calling and writing their representatives to let them know their priorities. She was disappointed that she had received zero constituent comments about child care since starting her term. Ms. Liedl emphasized that early childhood educators must invite their representatives into their child care programs so that they can see what high quality early care and education looks like in order to get support from legislative bodies. The other panel members also emphasized that you had to get support from early childhood educators, businesses, families, and community members, as we are all stakeholders in order to get funding from the state or national level.
The conference wrapped up with a breakout session where each state met with their conference attendees to discuss the particular needs of their state. To discuss what they had learned from the various breakout sessions they attended to apply at the state level. Hendrickson, along with the other two educators from Wisconsin, Mary Thundercloud-Eary and Tamara Johnson, talked about some barriers including the high turnover of teachers, inability to recruit teachers due to low wages, and closure rate of family child care centers, lack of substitutes, and inclusion of children with special needs in child care programs. The group discussed various ideas for recruiting new family child care teachers, group center teachers, and how to address the diverse needs of our state. It was determined that, as a group, they would pursue creating a state version of the Alliance to get more input from Wisconsin educators throughout the state to determine and prioritize the needs with a goal to create an actionable plan to move forward and address those needs in a cohesive and practical way.