Posted by Zelena Z. Stablo at 3/6/2015 9:00:00 PM
Three non-economic arguments for investing in early childhood education.
First, investment in high-quality early education is valuable from a social justice perspective. Many of our young children start their formal schooling far behind their peers from more affluent backgrounds. These children also deserve a shot at our Great American Dream. Our society is based on the promise that every person can have a decent chance to succeed in life. Education is the best vehicle of that hope, and early education holds the greatest promise for all our children to make the most of their later educational opportunities.
Second, investment in high-quality early education is valuable from a citizenship-building perspective. One of the primary roles of education is to foster a strong citizenry. Many studies of the effectiveness of high-quality early education have shown the benefits in terms of improved citizenship skills.
Third, investment in high-quality early education is valuable from an altruistic perspective. Do we really need research to prove to us that it is a good idea to feed hungry children, care for the health and well being of medically-vulnerable children, and provide socially enriching and cognitively stimulating environments to children who would be less likely to receive this elsewhere? As a researcher, I certainly value research. But I also believe that there are certain things that we should value and do simply because they are the right thing to do—period.
Three economic arguments for investing in early childhood education:
1. LONG TERM BENEFIT - First, there are clear economic values for the children who attend. From many studies of model programs, such as the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian Projects, as well as broader programs such as the Chicago Child-Parent Centers, we know that every dollar invested in early education yields back many dollars in societal savings from outcomes such as:
This is discussed by Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman in the first chapter of The Pre-K Debates: Current Controversies and Issues, as well as several other chapters.
2. IMMEDIATE BENEFIT - Second, there are clear economic values for the working parents of children who attend, as well as for their employers—both large and small businesses. Early education, when offering enough hours of service, plays an important role in providing safe, affordable, and available child care for working families. Child care was seen early as an important ingredient of welfare-to-work reform. Child care makes employment possible and profitable for millions of working families, and the benefits are felt by employers who report fewer worker absences.3. IMMEDIATE BENEFIT - Third, there are clear economic values for the many people who work in the larger early care and education enterprise. These include teachers, assistant teachers, directors, consultants, social workers, nurses, speech-language therapists, teacher preparation faculty, cooks, administrative assistants, bus drivers, and many others. These people earn a very modest (too modest) living while performing a massive public good. And they likely spend their wages locally, keeping local businesses thriving and paying sales, income, and property taxes. Sadly, preschool teachers and child care professionals are not even eligible for the federal tax break for K-12 teachers! It is this “third economic benefit” of early education that is often forgotten – but it is a huge one.