The Children’s Equity Project aims to better education in Arizona

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A center at Arizona State University, the Children’s Equity Project, focuses on the policies and systems affecting the lives of children and families.

After researching Arizona’s early care and education, the years of education before kindergarten, they looked at ways to improve Arizona’s standing in education. Their research found the quality, affordability, and accessibility in Arizona fall below other areas of the nation.

Dr. Shantel Meek, founding executive director of ASU’s Children’s Equity Project, explained how many of the shortfalls impact children in marginalized groups and workers in early education.

The Children’s Equity Project Center hopes to see improvement in policies to better help students and workers.

“Over the last couple years, we did a deep dive into Arizona’s early care and education landscape,” Meek said. This included looking at funding, governance, the quality of the system, and everything that has to do with early learning programs such as anything that happens before kindergarten.

In that analysis, recommendations were provided to up Arizona’s standing in education. As of now, Arizona’s standing is not great, according to Meek.

“We really focused on three things. The first piece is access. How is families’ access to childcare, to early care and education? It’s difficult and it’s not working for families,” Meek said. For example, it was found that infant toddler child care is more expensive than in-state tuition.

The second piece shows that the system is not working for kids.

“The quality of care that’s happening is subpar, and a lot of the standards that the state has with respect to what happens inside the classroom falls best practice, falls below a number of other states in the nation,” Meek said.

Lastly, it’s not working for the workers, who serve as the childcare providers and early educators in the state.

“We know that they’re making near-poverty wages,” according to Meek. Areas such as wages, compensation and mental health were looked at, and it was determined that it’s not working for them.

It was found kids from marginalized communities were impacted most of all. This system impacts children who are learning English and children with disabilities, Meek said.

Dr. Shantel Meek, founding Executive Director, ASU's Children's Equity Project

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