Education advocates unveiled ATL ACCESS Map Tuesday. The online tool details child care options across the five-county metro Atlanta region. Want to know how many child care centers are in a certain neighborhood? Or what the median income in that neighborhood is? Just point and click.
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“You get the racial distribution and ethnic distribution of the area,” says Ira Goldstein, the president of policy solutions for Reinvestment Fund, which developed the map. “You get information about income, household status, school enrollment, language spoken, the kinds of jobs that are there.”
The abundance of data could be a boon to nonprofit organizations and local school districts.
“[The map makes it easier] to drill down and get the information that I need to get for reports or also just to try to understand the communities we serve a little bit better,” says Montreal Bell, early childhood coordinator for the Fulton County schools. “We have some communities that are highly transient. We have some communities that we feel are maybe aging out. Where are the kids? We think that maybe they’re just not there.”
The map is a collaboration between Reinvestment Fund, the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS), the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Learn4Life. Reinvestment Fund has developed similar maps for Philadelphia, areas of New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
The hope is that identifying areas with the greatest need will compel community leaders to expand child care options. Parents wouldn’t be the only beneficiaries. More child care means more jobs. Also, research shows when employees have access to good child care, they’re more productive at work. They miss fewer days and cause less turnover.
Nationwide, 70 percent of parents don’t return to work after having children due to a lack of quality, affordable child care options. That means their employers have to replace them. That process can be expensive for employers.
“[That cost] nationwide is about $160 billion annually, which is a massive hit to our economy,” says Tim Cairl, director of education policy for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. “People say family benefits matter [when deciding] where they choose to work.”