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Foreign Policy Analysis
Policy Matters Season 4 Episode 1

Policy Matters Season 4 Episode 1

welcome to policy matters
season 4 episode 1. Policy Matters is a video chat series between Terry Talan
of the McCormack Center and guests thought leaders in early childhood
policy. This year our focus is on racial equity – an important topic in early
childhood education. It is being discussed at policy tables promoted by
philanthropy and in some exemplary programs put into practice by leaders
and teachers. What is racial equity? How does it differ from multicultural and
inclusive early childhood services? Why is it important to call out racial
equity and policy? Wow can you take action at the state, community, and
program level? Our guest for this episode is dr. Ayesha Rae, Distinguished Fellow
at BUILD initiative. welcome Ayesha is such a pleasure to be meeting with you
today for our policy chat on this really important topic of racial equity I’m
thrilled that you agreed to meet with us you’ve been doing some really important
work with the state in Illinois with the early learning council executive
committee of which I’m apart and it’s been a real pleasure I’d like to start
by just asking if you could explain your role with the build initiative around
helping states tackle the thorny issue of around policies and racial equity
certainly well thank you for inviting me to the policy talk I’m happy to do this
I think the initiative the build initiatives work really is helping
states across the country focus on developing and sustaining coherent early
childhood policies across the early childhood systems to get systems to work
more effectively with one another to get early learning to work more effectively
with mental health system and agencies and entities within states and with
health agencies and with child welfare so that
we’re really developing a system that benefits all children but particularly
is targeted at improving the lives and outcomes for kids who are really
furthest from opportunities so that’s the core of Bill’s work a lot of that
work particularly part about those children for this from opportunity is
really based on a equity strategy advancing an equity strategy and
particularly focusing on racial and social class issues in terms of child
outcomes one of the things that drives that equity work is a focus on using
data within States to really lift up and for all of us to look at where the
disparities really lie in Illinois with the early learning Council that work has
focused on a number of key things first of all I’ll say Illinois has had a focus
on trying to ameliorate the problems of poverty in the state for the for is its
neediest children what the racial equity focus brings is closing folk oppose
focus on race and its intersection with class if you take a strategy that’s
simply focused on class you basically don’t see that the the real impact that
racism has had on child outcomes so are you shocked I know sometimes people are
confused about some of the terminology and the terminology about equity and
equality can you help us understand how you see those terms working together or
or not sure so racial equity or equity or gender equity any of these equity
strategies are really a mix both a noun and a verb it’s something we’re trying
to a goal we’re trying to see and a process we use to get there so with
equity as a goal we’re focused on the fact that when we
look at the data on child outcomes we see that children of color and children
in rural communities including white children in Illinois are really
disproportionately affected by issues of poverty lack of resources often in their
communities that we generally associate with good child welfare and what we try
to do and in terms of the goal is to change that to make equity no longer an
issue in the artwork when we think of equity is a verb we’re using equity
strategies to try to address this looking at data including those most
affected by inequality in our conversations and planning and designer
project resources and policies when we use these terms equity when we use the
term equity we’re really trying to get to the point where the barriers are
reduced that people furthest from opportunity receive everything they need
and that we’re also trying to ensure that policies and programs and
procedures we develop within state systems are fair and just and then there
is that groups to historically disadvantaged are known no longer and
disadvantaged by the policies of programs we develop to the equity
equality difference which is an important thing for people to understand
when we focus on equality which is a foundational idea in the United States
everyone is equal one person one vote for example when we think about equality
it is a goal we see certainly it’s a universal goal everyone will be treated
fairly and equally the reality though is that that is not the case we know that
children when born or children even in utero already have some have greater
advantages and children someone have mothers who have
access to high quality nutrition other children do not some children have
mothers and families who have access to high-quality health care other chilled
other children in utero do not that’s a basic inequality in order to address
that inequality we can’t use a quality approach we can’t make sure that
everyone gets the same amount of prenatal care we want to make sure that
those who have the greatest need not only for prenatal care
but for possibly safe housing good nutrition mental health services that
those individuals also get those supports if they need them so equity is
a strategy to try to correct the imbalance between some communities some
individuals and other communities other individuals that we know are present
because of our long history of really as a country of really treating groups
differently based on issues like gender race and social class I’ve often thought
it was kind of strange how we in Illinois and maybe in other states have
programs called preschool for all but they’re really not for all we have
focused in Illinois with preschool for all on those who are furthest from
opportunities and that is always sort of felt like a little bit of a misnomer but
from the perspective of trying to get everybody to the same outcomes and
having equal high-quality early learning experiences it makes sense in terms of
what you’re just have just described well I think are great and I think one
of this one of the ways to think about equity strategies versus what we want
for universally for every child is that we have universal goals for all children
high quality care great health care safe communities stable families we want that
for every child but we recognize that have to have targeted strategies to
really address the inequalities that exist in order for us to get to equality
we have to use equity strategies so for instance if we take the example of
high-quality early childhood care and education we know that a significant
number of children in Illinois particularly for children and children
of color particularly those in poverty do not have access to have less access
to high-quality care and education then children whose families can actually buy
them high-quality really care education in order to address that universal goal
that everyone have that we have to look at how to really drive resources to
those children who have the least access to that care and make sure that they get
it I think what’s different is thinking about policy like how is it that our
policies can actually influence those outcomes by applying an equity lens and
and it just comes to my mind is I was a center director once upon a moment ago
and when that was true I we used to some always talk about how individualizing
children that everyone wasn’t treated the same that we need a special plan
based on the need of a child if what they needed so that’s an example that
comes to my mind was we had a child who had sensory integration challenges and
the specialists who came to support our staff said or suggested let’s let him
chew gum that that would really help well of course we had children who would
say I wanted to come why does he get to chew gum and we would say well he has
that need and you know we’re making a special plan for him we’ll make a
special plan for you when you have a need you know it along those lines and
somehow we do that unconscious and we do that with our own children
right everybody isn’t exactly the same they get what they need but to translate
that to policy is sometimes harder for people to swallow and I think that you
know that is one of the challenges that is so important in the work that you’re
supporting with us in Illinois well it’s important I think for leadership to be
able to both articulate why this is necessary to a broad audience because
there is I think in the United States and our current politics reflects this a
kind of sense of grievance that people have that someone is going to get more
than anger on the other hand we have had a long
history of recognizing that children in poverty as a country the children in
poverty deserve supports and perhaps their families cannot provide and we as
a society have a nomination so I think a lot of this of the public acceptance of
the idea that poor children in poverty and children who are disadvantaged by
the circumstances that there are families or communities find themselves
in should not be punished because of those realities we don’t withhold
support to young children who need mental health services because their
parents can’t afford it and we should not do that and part of our leadership
role at state leadership from the Governor on down is to really help all
of us understand our mutual obligations to one another as a society and that an
equity strategy is a way to really address the inequalities so that all
children really can thrive and survive it’s a benefit for the entire state and
the nation basically to have that kind of approach and that kind of leadership
they can make that case well thank you so much Aisha this has been really a
wonderful opportunity to tease out this some of the issues around applying of
racial equity lens to to policy at the state level thank you my pleasure

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