Have we Given up on Early Childhood Education?

Joey Saunders


I’ve spoken to folks across St. Louis city and county—families, educators, school and business leaders—who are worried that we are leaving a huge number of kids behind. Families, especially those harmed by racism, poverty, prejudice, and trauma, are struggling to find safe, high-quality, affordable ECE and childcare options.

Have we given up on early childhood education? What is our collective commitment to our youngest residents here in St. Louis?

We owe it to the 94,000 ECE-age kids in STL city and county to usher in a new era of innovation and support.

High quality ECE also means a better, stronger, safer future for St. Louis. Research shows that high quality ECE means better professional, personal, and academic outcomes, and a stronger workforce that drives economic mobility. It means kids’ health issues are diagnosed and treated sooner. It means less spending on special ed interventions, remedial classes, and incarceration. In other words, each dollar invested in great pre-K yields around $4-$9 in societal return. 

We also know that our region is full of passionate innovators who are ready to create change. This is why WEPOWER is thrilled to announce the launch of our new fellowship.

The Tomorrow Builders Fellowship is an opportunity to equitably reimagine and redesign our region’s early childhood education (ECE) system. This is a chance to engage community, research practices across the country, and access top tier trainings and education, provided by WEPOWER and our partners, including the Clark-Fox Policy Institute and the Social System Design Lab at Washington University.

Fellows will activate their abilities to create large-scale systems change and positively impact education policy. Using this knowledge, they will work together to publish a playbook of recommendations for improving ECE in St. Louis, a vision for change that will inform an upcoming ballot initiative.

The Fellowship will be structured through monthly in-person sessions, scheduled with Fellows’ professional and personal responsibilities in mind. Each fellow will receive a stipend for their participation. We highly encourage full-time educators, center or home-based directors, and parents or guardians of ECE-age kids to apply.

Does this sound like you? Apply between now and January 13th.

Or does this remind you of someone you know?

Can you forward this in to your network? With your help, we can build a better tomorrow.

The work of equity and justice in the ECE space is critical to the future of our region. To continue this conversation—as an advocate for children, a prospective Fellow, or a believer of a better St. Louis—read our partner’s new report, Make Work Work.