Barancik Foundation
Early Learning Initiative

We believe that by transforming the system of early learning in our community, we can create a more prosperous economy and a more educated workforce.

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There’s magic born between a baby and their parents. An invisible connection that can only be seen by the heart.    

The first few years of a child’s life brings struggles, but it can feel like heaven.

Within that time, parents dream of many firsts.

First words. First steps.
First day of School. Graduation.

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Over time trust is built,

boundaries are defined,

and then …

... They entrust another with their child’s safety and success.

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Historically, almost 90 percent of parents in dual-income households depend on some kind of child-care arrangement.

It is an industry that not only is key to a child's success in life, but it is interwoven with the health of the overall economy.

Though many preschools receive public funding, most of the funding comes from tuition. Only families in the lowest income brackets receive subsidies, but how those are distributed depends on state and local policies. Furthermore, these funds are based on a child's attendance, so if a child is out sick for a week, that's lost income.

Funding a workforce can also be expensive. On average, childcare centers need one teacher for every four toddlers. The ratio goes up for older children. Many centers balance this ratio to offset their expenses, which leads to capacity issues and long wait lists.

What many already know is that even the most connected and resourceful parents struggle to find dependable preschools.

And then in 2020, everyone became deeply aware of childcare’s relationship to the labor market—you can’t reopen the economy without early learning centers.


A fragile system before the pandemic,
the industry is now on life support.

When the pandemic hit, there were mixed messages on whether providers should stay open, with rules shifting day by day. More than half of Sarasota County preschools closed overnight.

Families had nowhere to turn if they wanted to continue going into work and put food on the table.

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The centers themselves were devasted. More than 13% of Sarasota County centers never reopened. Those that did are struggling to survive and are short-staffed .

This has created long waiting lists for childcare across the county.

The early learning teachers themselves struggled. Many missed out on paychecks, and childcare instructors are the lowest paid among all teachers.

25% of all professionals in the field either switched careers or retired.

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But, with the spirit of a passionate underdog, a dedicated core of early learning professionals remains. It is an opportune time for Barancik Foundation to begin re-exploring our system of early learning.

Parallel to plans and support across the nation, we are researching Sarasota County’s system of early learning to understand how best to invest in this vital sector. Preschools are the converging point of many of our society’s biggest challenges and greatest opportunities. They hold promise to stimulate intergenerational cycles of opportunity.  

Think about it. Investing in childcare pays dividends in many areas:

  • Child safety and well-being
  • Parent education and empowerment
  • Economic prosperity, especially for the teachers who are struggling to get by
  • The foundation of literacy, learning and all other types of childhood development
  • Healthy relationships and patterns of attachment
  • A sense of community and support for families

We have convened key partners and will be working together to create more opportunities for high-quality childcare. We thank the YMCA of Southwest Florida, which has been instrumental in identifying areas that can be improved in our system.  

We are also grateful to our Sarasota County School District, who has identified a need to focus on children before they enter the public school system.

We also partnered with United Way Suncoast and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to commission a study by the University of Florida and Kempton Research and Planning to understand our early learning landscape in our community. Through this research we identified four key areas of investment.

Teacher Quality

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Behavioral Support

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Professional Development

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Practice and Policy

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The greatest influence on student success is the quality of the teacher. Unfortunately, the early learning industry is experiencing a workforce shortage, which places significant strain on the remaining teachers. We have proposed a recruitment campaign to identify new teachers. We also will award retention bonuses to loyal educators, who for too many years have been working below a living wage.

Recruit and Retain Talented Teachers


Communicating with parents about their children and reaching shared strategies to support healthy development is an important part of a preschool's role. Sadly, teachers report an increase in behavioral health needs for their students.

In most cases, behavioral issues identified at an early age can be remedied before they impede a child’s life.  We plan to expand a proven model already in existence in the community, where trained behavioral coaches work alongside teachers, students and families to help work through behavioral challenges.

Improve Behavioral Development Supports

Our research revealed teacher satisfaction and the quality of the childcare center is heavily dependent upon the Center Director. Directors wear many hats, including teacher, registrar, bookkeeper, compliance officer, HR, facilities manager — the list goes on. This is overwhelming.

Barancik Foundation and its partners will establish a director mentorship cohort that offers business training. We will work with center directors to craft the specifics of this program and provide them with resources to meet their goals.

Leadership and Administration Training for Center Directors

We believe philanthropy is uniquely positioned to raise the flag on important community matters. We are calling attention to issues that threaten the future of our community, and the state of early learning is one of them. We plan to be a champion for this vital sector and advocate for its stakeholders.

Together with our partners, we will work to advocate for increased funding streams on the local and State level.

Inform Practice and Policy

Our community has a clear problem–but with research and data in hand we can do the work to address it. We also drive forward with the mantra that centers all of our work: "The earlier the investment, the greater the return." Here are some ways you get involved.

Get Involved

Are you a center director or teacher? Reach out to connect and partner with us on this endeavor!

Get Your Preschool Involved

Join us in transforming early learning and creating more generational cycles of opportunity.

Support Early Learning

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