Of all the issues getting attention during this election cycle, science tells us what must rise to the top – early childhood.

The greatest opportunity to influence a child’s success begins early when our brains grow faster than any later point in life.

This year, the election will bring into focus the priorities of voters, like myself, and help set the agenda for the next administration, the next Congress, and the next term for other policymakers on the ballot. Policies impacting the Early Childhood Education field are decided by elected officials at all levels of government—from local school boards to the president.

These elected officials will make critical decisions that impact families now and in the future, and can help ensure that all babies have what they need for a strong start in life. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated many of the problems already facing the ECE industry. Families have long struggled to access affordable high-quality options, teachers have been underpaid and undervalued, and programs have faced slim margins and precarious financial situations.

How important is early childhood to our region? Last month, West Central Initiative sponsored the Live Wide Open Summit, a series of speakers including child pediatrician Dr. Dipesh Navsaria. “Child development is a foundation for community development and economic development, as capable children become the foundation of a prosperous and sustainable society,” Navsaria said.

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“When we say words like infrastructure,” he continued, “we often think about bridges and highways and tunnels and airports and things like that. But the thing is brain infrastructure is as much a part of infrastructure development as those physical things you can see,” he said, adding “You need to have capable children becoming capable adults to have a prosperous and sustainable society.”

Clearly investing in our children is an important aspect of economic and community growth. As more people recognize this fact, we can elevate early childhood to become part of the conversation along with other issues in elections.

As the director of early childhood at West Central Initiative, I am calling on all of you to vote so that our region, state and nation can address the big challenges that the littlest among us face, including access to quality, affordable child care. By doing so, you can help ensure that all babies have what they need to thrive and set our country on the path to a strong future.

Our youngest children are depending on all of us to vote on Nov. 3rd.

Jost is the director of early childhood at West Central Initiative.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.