Andy Berke

Investing In Our Most Important Assets: Chattanooga’s Families

Early-childhood education is not only a priority of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke it’s a passion.

“I have two daughters and their worst days are my worst days,” Mayor Berke said. “Educators help give children a head start and parents a peace of mind.”

Since his inauguration in 2013, Mayor Berke has continued to make early learning a city government priority. In 2018, Mayor Berke announced that the City would create 1,000 high-quality early childhood education seats by Spring of 2021. The challenge to the community is yielding real results — the City’s “Seats For Success” initiative saw 365 seats created in just 365 days.

Our community’s belief in the importance of early childhood education is nothing new. In 1994, Chattanooga became one of the first sites for Early Head Start (EHS), which provides family-centered services for low-income families with very young children and are designed to promote the development of the children and to enable their parents to fulfill their roles as parents and to move toward self-sufficiency.

At Cedar Hill Early Head Start Center, Mayor Berke met with some of Chattanooga’s youngest learners, EHS teachers and former EHS students who have found successful career paths serving their community.

In Fiscal Year 2018:

  • 376 students were served at City and collaboration EHS sites
  • There were 60 Early Head Start classrooms in the City of Chattanooga
  • More than 23 Head Start parents were hired as EHS teachers
  • More than 154 parent and community volunteers

“If our teachers don’t have the support they need, none of this work happens,” Mayor Berke said. “The City’s Office of Early Learning knows the importance of helping our kids means supporting our educators.”

A cohort of 20 community childcare providers went through the Tech Goes Home training, which promotes digital inclusion for all, and they showcased some of their new skills to Mayor Berke.

“If we expect our teachers to perform well in the classroom, we should give them high quality professional development,” Mayor Berke added.

At the end of the program, each teacher was given a laptop, thanks to a donation by the Lyndhurst Foundation, to help them pursue creative ways to work with Early Head Start and Head Start students.

The City of Chattanooga’s mission is to break down the barriers that prevent people from living the lives they want in our community. That begins with our youngest residents and providing them with an equitable education that sets them up for success.