New survey finds widespread business support for early childhood

Results show business organizations in 49 states have supported early childhood efforts


America’s Promise Alliance and its early childhood project ReadyNation have announced the findings of a new survey that examined business support of early childhood programs in the U.S. The survey, titled Championing Success: Business Organizations for Early Childhood Investments, found that since 2007 at least one state chamber of commerce, large city chamber, or state business roundtable in 44 states has publicly supported early childhood policy initiatives. In addition, about half (49 percent) of the local chambers responding to the survey reported that their organization took action to support early childhood policy initiatives. Overall, the survey revealed that business organizations in nearly all states (49 states) have publicly supported early childhood programs and initiatives.

“Parents, educators and children’s advocates have known for years that a high quality early childhood program improves a young person’s trajectory in life. Business leaders — not traditionally major players in this part of the debate about children —are now also voicing their support for investments in early childhood. These business leaders see that this type of investment improves children’s lives, their communities, and the economy,” said Sara Watson, director, ReadyNation and executive vice president, America’s Promise Alliance. “This survey shows that business support is widespread, and that it encompasses the range of services — pre-kindergarten, child care, home visiting — that are being discussed in the active state and federal debates on early childhood.”

The business organizations surveyed are major contributors to policy change and this survey provides examples of their impact on early childhood. Advocacy efforts from the Grand Rapids (MI) Chamber of Commerce helped enact new legislation on home visiting and the Ohio Business Roundtable helped restore $1.5 million in state funding cuts for home visiting services. Business organizations took many different actions to make their positions known: joining a coalition, making early childhood part of an overall policy agenda, providing legislative testimony or having other communication with policymakers, making speeches or other public statements in the news media, or undertaking a distinct project around early childhood.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Specifically, 29 state chambers, 36 metropolitan city chambers and 16 business roundtables took public action to support early childhood initiatives.
  • The most popular form of action for large chambers and business roundtables was to include early childhood as part of an overall organizational policy or legislative agenda. Forty-five percent of total actions by large chambers and business roundtables fell into this category. For example, the Business Council of Alabama specifically mentions support for pre-kindergarten education as part of its state and federal policy agenda.
  • While early education was the most popular issue, other topics include child care, health care and home visiting.
  • The most popular ways that local chambers showed their support were communicating with policymakers (27 percent), making early childhood a part of a defined policy agenda (26 percent) and joining a coalition in support of early childhood (25 percent).
  • Business organizations also voiced their support through editorials in the news media and public speeches. Nineteen percent of local chambers included early education in public speeches and 18 percent of large chambers and state business roundtables prepared news pieces voicing their support.

Survey findings also revealed that early childhood — traditionally viewed as a family or social services issue — has become more of an education and economic development issue for businesses. Organizations had multiple frames for this issue. In 41 states, large chambers or business roundtables presented their support for early childhood initiatives as part of an education agenda; however in 22 states, these organizations also framed parts of their efforts as workforce or economic development.

To conduct this survey, ReadyNation partnered with the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), a national association serving individuals involved with chambers of all sizes. With the support of ACCE, ReadyNation conducted a detailed survey with individual follow-up to state chambers of commerce in 46 states (Nevada, Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming do not have state chambers), members of the ACCE Metro Cities Council (the 74 largest city/regional chambers in the nation), all state business roundtables (22 total) and a sampling of smaller local chambers of commerce. In total, the survey features feedback from a total of 122 state chambers, state business roundtables and Metro Cities Councils combined. An additional survey was sent to all 1,200+ members of ACCE and 104 local chambers responded.