Taking Big Strides for Child Care

A Summit on the Economic Impact of Early Care & Learning

Thank You for Attending!

The COVID-19 health crisis has proved that child care is no small matter.

The thread’s 4th Summit on the Economic Impact of Early Care & Learning: Taking BIG Strides for Child Care was a huge success, with more than 150 attendees working together to take BIG strides towards high-quality child care in Alaska.

Summit Resources

On December 9, 2021, this event brought together many early childhood experts, advocates, policymakers, and business and community leaders for a day of information, spark speeches, and design thinking around the issue of early care and learning for Alaska.

Below are resources from this event. Watch this space for more information!

thread Child Care Videos  

Untapped Economic Potential

Spark Speeches

Break Out Session

  • Break Out Summary: Participants were divided into 21 groups to discuss/determine the one BIG stride Alaska can take to strengthen its child care system

Initiatives Across Alaska Videos

Summit Agenda

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021

8:30 am
Welcome | Introduction

9 am
First-look at the Untapped Economic Potential in Alaska

Presenter: Aaron Merchen, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Not all families are able to secure the child care they want or need. Earlier this year, the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF), in partnership with the Alaska Chamber, looked at how much breakdowns in child care cost states and what solutions could help parents. Don’t miss this exclusive, first-look at the untapped economic potential in Alaska.

9:30 am
Child Care in Alaska Today & the Opportunity to Build Back Better with BIG Strides in Accessibility, Affordability, Quality

Presenters: Stephanie Berglund, CEO, thread | Harriet Dichter, Consulting Director, Early Education Services, Child Care State Capacity Building Center

Now is the time to re-imagine child care in Alaska. From access to affordability to workforce, “Build Back Better” means thinking BIG for innovative child care solutions and strategies with public and private partnership. Learn more about Alaska’s child care system during COVID and today’s opportunities.

Spark Speech 1: BIG Strides – New Mexico Child Care Reform

Presenters: Michael Padilla, State Senator, New Mexico | Elizabeth Groginsky, Cabinet Secretary for Early Childhood Education, New Mexico

Get the inside story on how the state of New Mexico is taking BIG strides for an equitable and inclusive child care system, from state governance to subsidies to quality to collaborative partnerships.

Video 1: Alaska’s Opportunities in Action

Spark Speech 2: Small strides to BIG change – Preschool for All in Multnomah County, OR

Presenter: Jessica Vega Pederson, Commissioner, Multnomah County, Oregon

Commissioner Pederson will inspire us to think BIG about universal preschool as she shares lessons learned from the years-long campaign “Preschool for All,” and the key elements to a successful community solution.

Video 2: Alaska’s Opportunities in Action

Spark Speech 3: A Collective Stride: Reimagining Child Care with More Partnership

Presenter: Grace Reef, President, Early Learning Policy Group, LLC

This speech will spark ideas for what types of partnerships are possible with current and future funding. Listen to stories from across the country where business and government are thinking BIG to make change for communities, working together!

Video 3: Alaska’s Opportunities in Action

11:30 am
Breakout: How BIG is your stride for child care?

Facilitated by Margo Fliss, Manager of Strategic Engagement, Center for Economic Development & thread Board Member

Connect with your break out group for this interactive session. We can Build Back Better in Alaska and you can be a champion for how we do it!

Action | Special Drawing | Close

Jonathan King, Founder, Halcyon Consulting Group & thread Board Member

Stick around! Be present to win during our special drawing!

Speaker Line-Up

You’ve been hearing it’s time to “build child care back better.” These leaders from across the country will share how they are doing it. Be inspired by their progress and insights to make lasting change for Alaska’s families, children, businesses and community.

Special Messages from Senator Lisa Murkowski & Senator Dan Sullivan

Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Senator Lisa Murkowski

U.S. Senator for Alaska

Lisa Murkowski, Alaska’s senior U.S. Senator, is a third generation Alaskan proudly serving as the first Alaskan born senator. Murkowski was born in Ketchikan and raised in towns across the state, including Wrangell, Juneau, Fairbanks, and Anchorage.

Senator Murkowski has long-advocated for the Arctic as a national priority and continues to push the United States to invest in the infrastructure and assets critical to supporting an Arctic strategy.

She is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee (Subcommittees –Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Defense; Energy and Water Development; Homeland Security; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies), Ranking Member of the Interior-Environment Subcommittee, and member of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to name a few. Read more.

Senator Dan Sullivan

U.S. Senator for Alaska

Dan Sullivan was sworn in as Alaska’s eighth United States Senator on January 6, 2015. Sullivan serves on four Senate committees vital to Alaska: the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; the Armed Services Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Sullivan served as Alaska’s Attorney General and Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. As Alaska’s Attorney General, Sullivan’s number one priority was protecting Alaskans, their physical safety, and individual rights – particularly Alaska’s most vulnerable.

Sen. Dan Sullivan has a distinguished record of military and national security service. He is currently a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and has served in a variety of command and staff billets on active duty and in the reserves. Read more.

First-look at the Untapped Economic Potential in Alaska

Aaron Merchen

Director of Policy and Programs | U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Aaron Merchen is director of policy and programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce. Merchen works on the Chamber Foundation’s early childhood education portfolio leading efforts to educate policy makers, state and local chambers and early education advocates on business’ role in early education to promote investments in the workforce of today and tomorrow.

Merchen holds degrees from South Dakota State University and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife and son.

Spark Moderator & Presenter
Child Care in Alaska Today & the Opportunity to Build Back Better with BIG Strides in Accessibility, Affordability, Quality

Harriet Dichter


Consulting Director, Early Education Services, Child Care State Capacity Building Center

Harriet Dichter has extensive experience in public policy, strategy, and systems building with a focus on analysis and action with an social justice and equity framework. Harriet’s expertise comes her leadership positions as Pennsylvania Secretary of Department of Human Services, Founding Deputy Secretary of Office of Child Development and Early Learning, and Policy Director of Department of Education, to name a few.

Harriet has made great strides in developing new policy and program, tackling finance and governance, and building systems, whether from inside government or working as an advocate. She has also authored numerous publications on early childhood systems building, governance and finance.

SPARK 1 – Taking BIG Strides to Reform & Strengthen New Mexico’s Child Care System

Senator Michael Padilla

State Senator | New Mexico

Bio coming soon.

Elizabeth Groginsky

Cabinet Secretary for Early Childhood Education | New Mexico

Elizabeth Groginsky has more than two decades of executive leadership experience administering public and private human service organizations at the national, state and local levels.

In November 2019, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed Groginsky as the first cabinet secretary for the newly created New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department. Under her leadership, the new department acted swiftly to stabilize the child care industry during the pandemic, secured long-term funding for early childhood programs and services, and implemented a historic expansion of the state’s child care assistance program.

Prior to her appointment as ECECD Secretary, she served as the assistant superintendent of early learning for the District of Columbia, where she administered programs to ensure equal access to quality services for the District’s most vulnerable children and their families. In 2009, D.C. was first in the nation to pursue universal pre-K and today has the highest U.S. participation rate, with 85 percent of 4-year-olds and 75 percent of 3-year-olds.

Before joining the D.C. Superintendent’s office, Elizabeth directed early childhood education for United Way Worldwide, where she helped expand the number of communities collecting and using population-based early childhood data. In addition, Elizabeth served as the first executive director of the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, a national coalition to improve state policies and practices in the development and use of early childhood data systems.

Elizabeth also has extensive experience with Head Start programs. She began as a family services coordinator, later administered a county program, and then directed the Head Start Collaboration Office for the State of Colorado. In Washington, D.C., she oversaw one of only eight state Early Head Start Child Care Partnership grants.

Elizabeth holds a master’s degree in social sciences from the University of Colorado at Denver and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland.

SPARK 2 – Taking a Stride Towards BIG Change with a Historic Campaign for Universal Preschool in Multnomah County

Jessica Vega Pederson

Commissioner | Multnomah County, Oregon

Jessica Vega Pederson serves on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and the Boards of Portland Children’s Levy, Forth, and NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon. A former technology professional, she graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in information systems management and philosophy.

Before being elected to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, Jessica served as a state representative in the Oregon legislature where she was the first Latina elected to the House. In the legislature, Jessica fought for issues impacting working families such as paid sick time and pay equity to improve the lives of working Oregonians.

SPARK 3 – Building it Back Better with New Public & Private Partnerships

Grace Reef

President, Early Learning Policy Group, LLC

Grace Reef is the founder of the Early Learning Policy Group, LLC, a northern Virginia based early childhood consultant firm. The Early Learning Policy Group focuses on strengthening the quality of child care and early learning at the federal, state, and local levels through policy analysis, strategic thinking and partnership building, effective communication and advocacy approaches, and pursuing alternative financing strategies and best business practices to support early childhood initiatives.

A veteran political and policy strategist, Grace worked for 17 years in the U.S. Senate as a senior policy advisor on issues related to families with children for Senators George Mitchell, Tom Daschle and Chris Dodd. Additionally, Grace was the Chief of Policy & Evaluation for seven years at the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), doing business as Child Care Aware® of America

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