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Make kids, and Eagle County, No. 1

Arn Menconi

“Early childhood development programs are rarely portrayed as economic development initiatives, and we think that is a mistake. Such programs, if they appear at all, are at the bottom of the economic development lists for state and local governments. They should be at the top. Most of the numerous projects and initiatives that state and local governments fund in the name of creating new private businesses and new jobs result in few public benefits. In contrast, studies find that well-focused investments in early childhood development yield high public as well as private returns.”

– From the Minnesota’s Federal Reserve website article, “Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return.”

Referendum 1A seeks to provide Eagle County children under the age of 9 with expanded early childhood services in the areas of childcare, health care, family support and special needs.

Eagle County has over 7,000 children under the age of 9. Our children’s population is growing at three times the rate of the State of Colorado as a whole. In nearly 60 percent of our young families, both parents work and need quality, affordable child care to remain in the work force. Nearly one in four Eagle County families have no health insurance. There are few programs for special needs children in our county. This referendum will invest in the hope and strength of our children’s future.

As our population grows, so does the need for early childhood services. Our current service gaps are significant. Without support, these gaps will place more children at risk, force working families to leave our community, and further threaten the quality of our schools with more demand for remedial education.

A yearlong assessment of strengths and opportunities in early childhood resources for our community was published in July of 2006. Results of this study include a list of priority areas to be considered for future early childhood programs.

SOME HIGH PRIORITY PROGRAMS AND SERVICES:

– Recruiting and training of qualified childcare teachers.

– Expanded access to health care for working families and children.

– Creation of a parent resource center to educate parents on infant brain development and parenting classes.

– Expanded access to supportive services for children with special needs.

Utilizing the extensive data gathered from the yearlong study, an Early Childhood Council Advisory Committee of local professional representatives from health care, childcare, education, nonprofits, parents, and businesses will make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners. The County Commissioners will, acting on the advisement of the Advisory Committee, administer the funds, based on an assessment of need, best practices, programs showing proven outcomes, partnership with other organizations, and matching dollars.

For approximately $46 a year for a $400,000 home, Referendum 1A will raise more than $3.5 million dollars annually to provide and improve the quality, availability, and affordability of Eagle childhood services and facilities. The cost to help is less than $1 dollar per week for the average homeowner.

Join professionals in business, education, health care and government make Eagle County No. 1 in putting children first. For more information or how you can help go to eaglecountycares.org or e-mail me at arn@vail.net.

Arn Menconi is an Eagle County Commissioner.


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