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Advocating for policies, programs, and resources that support the healthy development of young children, as well as promoting the well-being, rights, and their needs.  Strong advocacy and supportive policy is vital for creating a supportive environment that prioritizes the well-being, healthy development to ensure all children have a strong foundation for lifelong success.


Effective school readiness programs and their systems require collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders, including service providers, policymakers, families, and community organizations. OPSR supports and advocates for public policy that enhances universal and equitable access to high-quality early childhood programs and services throughout the state of Oklahoma.


By adopting and implementing public policies that support school readiness programs and systems, we can create an Oklahoma where all children are safe, healthy, eager to learn, and ready to succeed by the time they enter school.


Child care providers, parents and individuals involved in a child-serving organization are invited to join Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness on Monday, April 15, 2024, for our third annual Invest N’ Kids Day (INK Day) at the Oklahoma capitol as we use our voice to ensure our state’s legislators know how important a quality early childhood education is to Oklahoma's young children and to the Oklahoma economy.

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A stronger Oklahoma means supporting our youngest citizens. It’s time to Invest N Kids.

Quality Child Care Today. Quality Workforce Tomorrow.

There are 2,000 days between birth and kindergarten, and 90% of the brain develops during this timeframe. Quality early learning teaches children key life and work skills like problem solving, getting along with others and reading at grade level so they can graduate on time. All of these are building blocks for success in school, work, and life and reduce the skills gap for businesses that have a tough time filling key positions.

Child Care Centers are Small Businesses.

Child care facilities employ more than 5,700 Oklahomans, with locations spread across all 77 counties. Statewide, there was a 30% decrease in licensed Oklahoma child care facilities from 2016 to 2020. Child care providers are true economic engines for our communities. They are small businesses that hire people, pay taxes, and buy equipment and supplies. They also contribute to the local economy by providing other local businesses with a reliable workforce and molding and shaping our future workforce.

Child Care Helps Keep Oklahomans Working

Quality early learning and reliable child care ensures businesses have a workforce that is reliable and consistent, but 55% of Oklahoma counties are in a child care desert. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 33% of all Oklahoma children under age 12 had their child care disrupted during the pandemic. 18% of all Oklahoma parents took unpaid leave as a result, and an additional 36% used vacation and sick leave due to lack of child care.

• There was a 30% decrease in licensed Oklahoma child care facilities from 2016 to 2020.

• There was a 28% decrease in licensed Oklahoma child care slots from 2016 to 2020. There was little to no change in the number of Oklahoma children younger than age 12 who need some sort of child care.


• There was a 17.3% increase in the average cost for an infant in an Oklahoma child care center from 2016 to 2020.


• In 20 Oklahoma counties, less than 20% of children birth to age 5 who need some sort of child care have access to a licensed child care slot.


• The annual cost of center-based care for an Infant in Norman, Oklahoma, is $10,131, which is more expensive than two semesters of in-state tuition at the University of Oklahoma ($9,310).


• According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent data from May 2020, Oklahoma employs 5,720 child care workers at a $10.32 hourly mean wage and 770 child care administrators at a $22.12 hourly mean wage.




For three months, OPSR lead more than 40 early childhood stakeholders, including representatives from Head Start/Early Head Start, child care, public schools, home visiting, early childhood mental health, tribes, special education and health, to identify what is necessary to complete our state’s economic recovery and protect the stability of families with young children.

Seven recommendations were developed and address: 1) how early care and education programs can safely care for children; 2) how to equip parents to make informed choices on selecting early care and education programs; and 3) how to leverage financial supports and relief packages to maintain Oklahoma’s early childhood infrastructure throughout the pandemic.


Below is an overview of seven urgent actions for our state to take during the pandemic. To learn more about these broad recommendations and their accompanying strategies, see the full report "Expanding Access to Early Childhood Care and Education Services Amid COVID-19: Findings and Recommendations."

1. Collect real time data on early childhood care and education program supply and demand.

2. Coordinate and widely disseminate protocols and resources for all early care and education providers serving children, birth-to-five, to operate safely under COVID-19 group education and care guidelines.


3. Stabilize the child care industry through the distribution of emergency relief grants and responsive subsidy policies and extend direct support to families who need access to early childhood care and education.


4. Utilize a cross-sector communications team to disseminate information for parents on health and safety, program options and availability, and costs to inform their choices when selecting group care and education options.


5. Recruit and retain qualified early childhood care and education providers.


6. Support the expansion of partnerships between Head Start, child care and pre-K to serve 3- and 4-year-olds in response to the impact of COVID-19 on program accessibility.


7. Leverage funding and partnership opportunities to enhance program quality for infants and toddlers throughout Oklahoma’s early childhood care and education system.

Project Partners

OPSR would like to thank our partners for their help in the devlopment of this report including the OPSR ECCE Access Collaboration, a subgroup of the OKFutures Family, Community and Workforce team. This group of hard working, dedicated advocates spent many hours sharing their experiences and crafting thoughtful recommendations.


The members of the ECCE Access Collaboration include: Denise Anderson, Audra Beasley, Lana Beasley, Lori Beasley, Misty Boyd, Paula Brown, Peggy Byerly, Susan Case, Angie Clayton, Amy Chlouber, Carolyn Codopony, Jennifer Cole-Robinson, Georgeann Duty, Amy Duncan, Kristina Ellis, Amy Emerson, Kay Floyd, Ashely Gaddy Melissa Griffin, Audra Haney, Lauren Jenks-Jones, Jennifer Jesse, Susan Kimmel, Paula Koos, Christi Laddis, Alesha Lilly, Bernice Loreto, Gina McPherson, Tiffany Neill, Shelly Patterson, Mary Reynolds, Megan Scott, Ryan Sierra, Kristi Simpson, Robin Swaim, Sabdra Turner, Nancy vonBargen and Keitha Wilson.


In addition, OPSR worked with consultants with and members of the Nemours Children’s Health System for their guidance on how to best ensure equity throughout this work. These individuals include: Eva Carter, Trevor Lee, Bilal Taylor and Georgia Thompson.


House Bill 2452 was signed by Governor Stitt on May 2, 2023, and will become law on Nov. 1. The bill principally authored by Rep. Suzanne Schreiber (Dist. 70) and Sen. Jessica Garvin (Dist. 43) will prohibit municipal governments from enacting additional regulations on family child care homes that have already undergone the rigorous licensing process prescribed by the Department of Human Services to operate a childcare business in Oklahoma. Through the passage of HB 2452, Oklahoma has shown a commitment to increasing access to quality and affordable childcare for Oklahoma families, while working to stabilize the struggling childcare industry across the state.




A constant advocate for children, Phil Dessauer, Jr., was a founding member of the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness. The OPSR Public Policy Fellowship will honor Phil’s decades-long legacy by providing space for a college junior or senior to learn how to effectively advocate with policymakers on behalf of Oklahoma children. This year-long internship will include an in-depth look and hands-on participation into practices that build effective relationships and impact policy on issues related to early childhood.


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