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Recognizing Georgia PreK Week

Enjoy this Q&A session with Erica Fener Sitkoff Ph.D, Executive Director of VOICES


What is Pre-K Week? When did the program start?

In 2010, the Georgia Legislature was poised to make significant funding cuts to the Georgia Pre-K Program. While it was saved from the chopping block, the following year Voices partnered with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) to raise awareness of the importance of quality early education and our nationally-recognized, no-cost program. Voices continues that partnership now 11 years later, and has welcomed new partners, like Georgia Power, on board to host the annual celebration of Georgia’s lottery-funded Pre-K program. The goal is to reinforce how important quality early childhood education is and welcome federal, state, and local leaders in the classrooms every year to experience it for themselves.

How has Georgia Power supported Pre-K Week?

Georgia Power has sponsored Georgia Pre-K Week for eight years in a row. The continuing support of such a leading and active for-profit company brings a high level of visibility and momentum to Pre-K Week. The support of public and private organizations sends a powerful statement to the community about the value of quality early learning. For the past eight years, Georgia Power has been pivotal in raising awareness for the early education of Georgia’s children and in engaging the business community and new audiences more actively across the state.


How does early literacy support Georgia's growth and future workforce?

Quality early education is critical to Georgia’s economy. Early care and literacy have been shown to increase high-school graduation rates and even increase college attendance, therefore better preparing Georgia’s youngest learners for the jobs of tomorrow. Georgia’s early care industry also generates $4.7 billion annually for Georgia’s economy and employs approximately 67,500 individuals. The availability of child care for Georgia’s working parents cannot be understated, as parents with children enrolled in early care programs have been shown to miss fewer days of work, earn more income to support the family, and stay employed at higher rates.


What impact do you see VOICES having on early learners, parents and educators throughout the state?

One policy change can affect millions of children at once – so when our advocacy is successful – it provides access to quality care, critical services and supports to exponentially more families across the state. And where we have the greatest impact is when the policy changes and investments we advocate for reach children and families who disproportionately face the greatest barriers due to their family income, geography, and discrimination. Our ultimate goal is for Georgia to be a state where every child thrives and changes in our laws, policies and systems are necessary to ensure that becomes a reality – a few examples of that impact are:

  • Access to affordable high quality early care and education to thousands of more families so parents have the support they need while they work; children have the environments they need nurture their development.
  • Continual Healthcare coverage to tens of thousands of more children so they are better able to see their doctor for well-visits, when they are sick, or see specialists earlier when there are developmental concerns.
  • Pre-K teachers and other early educators are better recognized for the critical role they play and have greater support so they have what they need to be successful.

What's the favorite part of your job?

There are many things I love about my job – first, is that I get to be a part of making the lives better for children and families on a larger scale. I started my career in direct service as a clinical psychologist and I loved helping each family I worked with. But at Voices, I’m motivated daily by the larger impact we are able to have with the changes we are advocating for in our child serving systems. Second, is the people – I get to work with the best, brightest, most dedicated advocates, experts, leaders. They teach me something new every day, so I am continually learning and growing. And finally, every night at the end of a long day, this job helps me broaden the horizons of my young son, helping him better understand the diverse experiences children face and how he can play a role in making our community a better place.