VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - A new study shows just how important early care and education are to Georgia's economy. Early care and learning now has a nearly $5 billion impact on the state's economy each year.
It is a number Georgia's Early Care and Learning Department wants everyone in the state to hear at public forums like the one Tuesday at Valdosta State University.
"Part of the landscape of early care and learning is that you're an economic engine. You produce wages, you produce jobs for other industries," said Georgia State University's Dr. Sally Wallace, emphasizing the importance of the industry.
Wallace was one of several people from Georgia State University and the University of Georgia who helped conduct the study.
Soraya Miller is the executive director of childcare resource and referral for southwest Georgia at Darton State College. She came to the meeting to better understand how the continued promotion of Georgia's new voluntary childcare rating system is impacting the industry and ultimately the state's economy.
"One of the largest impacts that [ the industry makes] is promoting the new rating system," said Miller. "That's the number one way that we believe we can prepare children for school. This is all about learning how to be successful in school, how to stay in school."
The last time DECAL conducted this type of study was in 2007. Then, according to DECAL, the industry had a $4.1 billion annual economic impact.
The department's spokesperson, Reg Griffin, said this shows that the industry is growing and becoming more successful. A bigger and more successful early care and learning industry ultimately means a higher quality of care and learning for young children.
"We're actually developing our greatest resource in these child care centers and giving them a solid educational foundation for the future," Griffin said.
DECAL will hold three more meetings to discuss the study. The next meeting will be held in Macon on October 14th, then in Atlanta on October 21st, and finally in Athens on October 23rd.
For more information about DECAL's research, click here.