Community leaders and educators convened Wednesday night at Clatsop Community College for a panel discussion to address the lack of child care and preschool options in Clatsop County.

The discussion followed a screening of the documentary, “No Small Matter,” which investigates the importance of early childhood education.

No Small Matter

A documentary examines the need for early childhood education.

The Northwest Early Learning Hub recently formed a task force to look at more child care and preschool options.

“As a new parent — I have a 2-year-old — having a lot of hopes in thinking you can provide everything you can for your child and then unable to do that. It is hard,” said Maritza Romero, the executive director of the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council.

“And parents are doing what they can, as well. And I’m amazed because I have a job that is flexible and I can work my 40 hours and I can be with my child and provide that education. But I know the parents that I work with don’t have that flexibility ... I want to see more commitment from our community because we’re talking about children.”

Romero said she hopes the state’s investment in early childhood education through the Student Success Act will help the county create more child care slots.

Dan Gaffney, a retired Seaside principal, said although the Student Success Act is the biggest investment the state has made in early childhood education, it is not enough. He said the county cannot continue to wait on state funding to solve the problem.

“What I envision, what I want, what I see is the business community taking a lead in a lot of these political choices of where we’re going to put our efforts and energies,” said Brian Owen, the chief executive officer of the Seaside Chamber of Commerce.

He said businesses often pour money into sports and the arts because it’s a way to visibly promote their business. But he said it’s time the business community recognizes the importance of investing in early childhood education.

Adrienne Hunter, the owner of Simply Kids Preschool, a Preschool Promise funded program, said along with funding more options, local educators need more training.

She said Preschool Promise has strict parameters and many local educators don’t meet the qualifications. She said the task force is looking at ways to get local educators where they need to be to qualify.

When asked what the role of county government is in growing early education, Commissioner Lianne Thompson began by saying the county hasn’t done enough.

“But we’ve got a new county manager and I think the level of functionality in actually making a difference for the lives of people all over Clatsop County is going to head up exponentially. Because I think every commissioner has wanted to make a difference in this area, but we didn’t have all the right players on the team,” she said.

“I think we’re going to own this a lot more and use what you’re doing, what we’re doing together, to raise up the visibility of this issue. It’s essential to solve.”

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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