Early Learning Center

“The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to.”
Marian Wright Edelman

The Vision

The Council Bluffs Community School District is proposing construction of an Early Learning Center designed to serve nearly 200 at-risk students in full-day preschool and birth-to-3 childcare. Students at the Early Learning Center would be taught by highly qualified early childhood educators, using a research-based and state-approved curriculum and assessment system aligned with the Iowa Early Learning Standards.

Located at 8th Street and Avenue G, the Early Learning Center will house fourteen classrooms serving children from birth to five years old. Twelve classrooms will be designated for preschool-aged children, helping to achieve a district goal of providing universal preschool for four-year-old children, and two classrooms will serve up to twenty children ages birth-to-3, with the ability to expand to six birth-to-3 rooms.

In addition to meeting the educational needs of students enrolled in the Early Learning Center, comprehensive child development programming would provide parent and family engagement; health, safety, mental health, medical, dental, and nutritional services; and the option of before- and after-school care provided in partnership with the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation to support parents’ needs for childcare extended beyond the regular school day.

The Need

Currently, only 50% of incoming kindergarten students are served in a full-day preschool program provided by the Council Bluffs Community School District, the largest provider of high quality preschool programming in Council Bluffs. These preschool programs are located in ten elementary schools throughout the district, but there is no additional space to expand to meet the needs of 200 additional students and their families.

High quality preschool programs make a statistically significant contribution to intellectual and social development in childhood, leading to improvement in school success, economic performance, and crime reduction, particularly for children living in poverty.

According to conservative estimates, every dollar invested in high-quality early education programs yields a return of $12.90 in preventative costs associated with incarceration, truancy, school dropout, teen pregnancy, and increased taxable wages.

Yet, several studies show that children living in poverty are more than 50% less likely to have access to quality childcare and preschool opportunities as their more affluent peers.

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2017 there were 4,077 children under the age of five living in Council Bluffs, Iowa. 23% of these children (937) are living below the federal poverty level. This is approximately 8.2% higher than the overall percentage of people living below the federal poverty level.

During the 2018-19 school year, 273 students enrolled in Council Bluffs Schools were identified as homeless
as reported by parents at the time of enrollment.

All children deserve a quality experience that builds the foundation for future school success in an environment where all adults are experts in Early Childhood Development. This is essential in eliminating gaps in learning opportunities that currently exist within our community, particularly for children who would otherwise not have access to a high-quality preschool experience.

The Council Bluffs Community School District, in partnership with the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation, will engage the community to provide preschool and early childhood education offerings to 212 additional children and their families in Council Bluffs.

High Quality Programming

The Council Bluffs Community School District has adopted a research-based and approved preschool curriculum that uses developmentally-appropriate practices and a written program of activities planned according to the developmental level of the individual child. Careful consideration is given to provide children with a program of activities that promote self-esteem and positive self-image; social interaction; self-expression and communication skills; creative expression; and problem-solving skills.

The CBCSD also provides a Certificate Advancement Program in Early Childhood Education for high school students, through collaboration with Iowa Western Community College. This program is designed to enhance the quality of childcare experiences by increasing and recognizing competence of those who care for and educate young children. Upon completion of this program, graduates will be eligible for the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification from the Council for Professional Recognition while still in high school.

Workforce Development is another key element to the strategy for high quality programming. According to the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, in a report released with the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI), child care shortages result in an estimated $935 million loss annually to Iowa’s economy. The state of Iowa loses an estimated $153 million annually in tax revenue due to the lack of childcare options. One in four parents had to voluntarily or involuntarily leave their jobs, decrease their hours from full-time to part-time, were unable to increase their work hours, or were unable to accept a position for employment because of their inability to access quality and affordable childcare. The Early Learning Center would assist in eliminating this barrier for families, and create additional employment opportunities for teachers and support staff.