Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors have captivated the country with their dazzling artistry. Their Strength in Numbers rallying cry is more than a marketing ploy: the call reinforces that despite Curry’s extraordinary skills, they are all members of one team and each have to try their best and work together to achieve a win.
I’m reminded of strength in numbers when I consider the rapidly growing advocacy community fighting for children 0 to 5, especially low income children and their families, here in California.
Though in no way comprehensive, I’ve highlighted below how the 0 to 5 advocacy community is growing and how real policy change comes only with the collaboration and careful leveraging of the contributions of academic research, foundations, advocacy organizations and carefully cultivated political champions.
Fueled by the landmark 1966 report that first identified the achievement gap, the foundation for California’s advocacy community started with the 43-year-old Children’s Council of San Francisco, who sought to professionalize the rapidly expanding field of child care, and the first statewide policy and advocacy powerhouse, Children Now, in 1988.
Momentum continued to grow with the 1995 study, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young Children,” which found that lower income children hear over 1,000 fewer words per day than their wealthier counterparts.
In 1998, voters wisely supported the creation of the First 5 California. Envisioned as the ultimate laboratory for what works in all 58 counties, the First 5’s added a statewide infrastructure and a dedicated funding source for young kids.
As inequities in funding were identified, groups like Advancement Project took up the fight in 1999, with support from foundation-financed efforts like the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s support for PreSchool California (now Early Edge) in 2003.
Next the Heckman Curve, published in 2008, demonstrated that early intervention was economically and educationally more effective than later efforts.
In 2010, the California legislature wisely adopted transitional kindergarten, sending 150,000 eligible four year olds for a critical year of learning.
In 2013, President Obama called for universal pre-K in 2013, for the first time mentioning the critical importance of preschool and early learning in the State of the Union.
2016 brings yet another battle with advocates fighting for better access to, and improved quality in, early intervention and education and rejecting Governor Brown’s proposal to eliminate transitional kindergarten.
This time though, the coalition is super-sized, supported by lawmakers like California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and freshly launched Common Sense Kids Action and the Right Start Commission.
Common Sense Kids Action and is harnessing the power of the tens of millions of children and families that rely on Common Sense media, and the blue chip Right Start Commission boasts leadership from billionaires Tom Steyer and Mark Benioff, and thought leaders including Angela Blackwell and Linda Darling Hammond.
The movement is no longer a city or regional concern but a national conversation – calling for more investment in, and better access to, high quality support for all Americans ages 0 to 5.
Like the Warriors, there is Strength in Numbers. It doesn’t matter who is the biggest, the strongest, or the oldest: no one organization can be successful alone. Working together, California’s 0 to 5 ecosystem of non-profits, foundations, researchers, and governmental agencies are driving toward a shared vision of healthy children who can thrive in kindergarten and beyond.
They may never get a playoff ring, but to the 6 million children who call California home, they are the state’s Most Valuable Players.