Supporting parents of toddlers, teacher compensation top discussion at Rep. Davids’ early childhood education forum

Rep. Sharice Davids (center with microphone) led a discussion on the importance of early childhood education at an event in Kansas City, Kan. on Wednesday. Tyrone Bates Jr., the Shawnee Mission School District’s coordinator of diversity, equity and inclusion, left of Davids, was among the panelists.

Engaging parents of newborns and toddlers and elevating the profession of teaching dominated a discussion on the importance of early childhood education at a panel convened by Rep. Sharice Davids Wednesday.

“I want to figure out ways that I can help at the federal level,” Davids said. “It should not be that someone’s ZIP code determines the access that they have to a whole host of things, but for sure education is one of those things, healthcare is one of those things, housing is one of those things. And all of these really work together in a lot of ways. That holistic approach to education really starts at the earliest ages, from early childhood and pre-K all the way through to higher ed and skills training programs.”

Panelists included:

  • Lisa London – director of Project Eagle and Educare
  • Dr. Tyrone Bates – coordinator of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Shawnee Mission School District
  • Paula Neth – vice president of programs, The Family Conservancy
  • Dr. Eva Horn – special education professor and coordinator of the Early Childhood Unified Program at the University of Kansas
  • Terrie VanZandt-Travis – executive director of Growing Futures Early Education Center in Overland Park

Across the discussion, panelists said that early childhood education is an issue best addressed as a community because parents, schools and businesses all benefit from providing access to quality education for children ages 0 to 5. To do so often requires support for parents and families of children as much as it does the children themselves.

“Children and families that are in poverty are living in a state of disarray every day,” Bates said, noting that providing resources for adults of young children is critical. “Our children that show up to school at the age of 5 ultimately show up five years behind. So they’re already behind but their education is five years behind.”

Panelists argued that respect for educators must be elevated, and teachers also must be more properly compensated. Doing so would also strengthen the field of early childhood education.

The full video of the panel discussion can be viewed below: