Credit: MONTGOMERY MOVING FORWARD

A coalition of business, government and nonprofit leaders in Montgomery County issued Wednesday a call to action to expand access to early childhood education across the county.

Montgomery Moving Forward released a report detailing six steps to remove barriers to early childhood education, prepare every child for kindergarten and raise the skilled workforce of the future.

Diego Uriburu, a local nonprofit leader who co-chairs the coalition, said the group doesn’t intend to dictate action but to set it in motion by bringing county leaders together.

“Then, hopefully, others will pick up the baton,” said Uriburu, executive director of Identity, a Gaithersburg nonprofit that provides academic support and social services to Latino youths and their families in the county.

About half of incoming kindergartners in Montgomery County Public Schools are not ready for kindergarten, according to the report. But the heavy cost of early childhood education leaves many families unable to pay for quality care. The median cost of care for an infant at a childcare center in the county is $17,240 per year, more than the average cost of in-state tuition and fees at a public college in Maryland, according to the report.

Montgomery Moving Forward chose to focus on early care and education after a six-month community outreach process. The topic was a leading concern for almost all of the 500 residents and leaders contacted as part of the engagement effort, the coalition reported.

The call to action includes six strategies for expanding early childhood education:

  • Coordinating early childhood education and care in the county;

  • Removing barriers that block access to quality care;

  • Involving more people in the effort to provide early childhood education by increasing public awareness;

  • Developing a plan to pay for early child care and education;

  • Creating a strong workforce in early childhood education; and

  • Providing parents with resources to continue educating their children at home.

Uriburu said Montgomery Moving Forward’s members know that progress won’t happen overnight. For one thing, the county must find a way to pay for expanding services to all young children.

“This report does not come up with a list of solutions, but we do come up with some issues that we believe must be tackled,” he said.