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Staff Photo by Anika Chaturvedi / Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, speaks during the 2021 Literacy Summit on Sept. 9, 2021 in Collegedale, Tennessee.

Tennesseans for Quality Early Education has partnered with Chattanooga 2.0 to promote early learning and close learning gaps via the new Bright Start Tennessee network.

Chattanooga 2.0 is one of six organizations across the state partnering with Tennesseans for Quality Early Education to form the network.

Jennifer Andrews, director of early childhood strategies at Chattanooga 2.0, told the Times Free Press last week that ongoing work from the Early Matters action team of Chattanooga 2.0 laid the foundation for the new partnership.

"What this is going to do for us locally is really bridge the initiatives of Early Matters and the Chattanooga 2.0 action team focused on literacy that we have, as well as the Hamilton County Children's Cabinet, the city's Department of Early Learning," Andrews said. "It's going to help coordinate and align all of those efforts and then, additionally, it's going to help us accelerate kind of moving from assessment to action."

The Early Matters team has conducted needs assessments around child care development, mental health, nutrition and advocacy over the past year, she said. The next step for the Bright Start partnership is development of a plan to address child care and early childhood education issues by June 2022 for implementation by 2025.

Andrews will lead a steering committee of Chattanooga and Hamilton County community members involved in education and child care to develop the plan, including two Hamilton County Board of Education members and three Hamilton County Schools administrators.

Funding will come from Tennesseans for Quality Early Education and other sources such as grants, Andrews said, and Tennesseans for Quality Early Education will connect Chattanooga 2.0 and other partners to state and national resources.

"Bright Start TN is an important extension of the work Tennesseans for Quality Early Education does to advance smart state policies and practices that support young children's success," Tennesseans for Quality Early Education President and CEO Blair Taylor said in a statement.

"But state policies are only as successful as their local implementation. Through Bright Start TN, we'll tap the power of local community members – civic and business leaders, child care providers, nonprofits, schools, families and other stakeholders – to create and implement local plans for early childhood success that leverage both state and community assets and resources. These teams will also inform [Tennesseans for Quality Early Education's] state policy agenda and expand our advocacy network," Taylor said.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

Bright Start TN Chattanooga/Hamilton County steering committee

— Jennifer Andrews, Chattanooga 2.0

— Tracy Bryant, Signal Centers

— Jessica Cliche, La Paz Chattanooga

— Allen Coffman, Highland Pediatrics

— John Cunningham, Hamilton County Schools

— Cynthia Evans, Champion Christian Learning Academy

— Katie Harbison, Chambliss Center for Children

— Heather Hicks, Child Care Resource & Referral

— Jenny Hill, Chattanooga City Council

— Lee Hope, Chattanooga Public Library

— Karitsa Jones, City of Chattanooga Community Forward Program

— Kristen McCallie, Hamilton County Children's Advocacy Center

— Celeste McKenzie, Hamilton County Schools

— Courtney Mott, Save the Children Action Network

— Neelie Parker, Hamilton County Schools

— Jeffrey Wilson, New United Baptist Church

Source: Bright Start TN

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