Our view: Isabella Project invests in our future workforce

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This article was originally published by the Pacific Coast Business Times.

The Isabella Project is one of the Central Coast’s most important public policy experiments that you’ve likely never heard of.

Developed by a group of Ventura County nonprofits and agencies it is an effort to give every three and four-year-old in Santa Paula access to what it calls “full-time, high-quality early childhood education.”

The project’s programs will be delivered to nearly 1,000 young children in the Santa Paula area, as a test and Ventura County Community Foundation is the organization that’s been coordinating the effort.

If it works as a proof of concept, the goal is to tweak the program and extend it countywide to reach some 12,000 three and four-year-olds.

The project has attracted partnerships with early childhood educators at CSU Channel Islands, economic experts at California Lutheran University, First 5 Ventura County and experts on housing, social services, family services and behavioral health.

It even has an outreach program with kidSTREAM, the new science and discovery museum that recently landed a major grant from Amgen.

The Isabella Project got our attention in large part because it touches on many aspects of economic development. Some key issues:

  • Getting young children on a path to success in kindergarten and early grades pays huge dividends in preparing them with skills and knowledge to have successful careers later on.
  • Training early childhood educators is a key tool for program success.
  • Early childhood educators are among the most vulnerable when it comes to the high cost of housing. Finding housing solutions for these typically lower-paid occupations is critical for the program’s ability to grow into a countywide effort.

We’ve been impressed so far with the Isabella Project’s outreach and its ability to attract high-quality partners, including the Economic Development Collaborative, where the Business Times is a partner.

Deepening and expanding those outreach efforts, and finding effective ways to track outcomes — both successful and unsuccessful — will be key to the program’s evolution and impact.

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