Increasing numbers of studies demonstrate the importance of early learning on later success in school and in life, and the Evanston 150 committee “Little and Learning” is focusing on identifying the barriers to affordable, accessible high-quality childcare in Evanston.

Its goal is to “provide the foundation for success in school through high-quality, affordable, universal preschool experiences for 3- and 4-year-olds so that all Evanston children are ready for kindergarten and prepared for success later in life.”

Early childhood educator Connie Porteous, who heads the Little and Learning Committee, says the group of 17-20 members is aware of many of those barriers, among them the cost of high-quality education, lack of transportation to family day care or a childcare center, and a need for childcare at times when centers are not open.

The group is seeking help from families struggling to find affordable, high-quality early childhood education in Evanston to further identify these barriers.

“We know what the issues are. We want to hear from families in their own words,” said Ms. Porteous. “We want to identify these barriers from the parents’ point of view [so we can make early childhood education] more accessible. Our goal is to minimize these barriers.”

The group has received a grant from Illinois Action for Children that will allow them to hold focus groups with parents. These focus groups will help define successes and further identify the difficulties, she said.

It has been more than a decade since University of Chicago professor James Heckman’s cost/benefit analysis of early childhood education concluded that every dollar invested in early childhood education saves a community $7 in later social service, support, incarceration, rehab or similar costs.

Ms. Porteous says the emphasis in Little and Learning is on “education” rather than simply “pre-school.” The members of the committee, she says, “are all in education, and so we’re all very passionate about early childhood education.”

Ms. Porteous encourages Evanston parents who are meeting, or have met, difficulties in obtaining high-quality, affordable early childhood education for their children to share their experiences. She can be contacted at 847-328-4148 or cporteous@comcast.net.