Writing recently in The New York Times, University of Massachusetts economist Nancy Folbre offers a good round-up of the economic case for high-quality early education. “Why then,” she asks, “hasn’t the business community thrown more of its political weight behind increased public support for early childhood education?”
With business leaders from around the country set to gather in Boston later this week for the National Business Leader Summit on Early Childhood Investment, we hope that they will show her that business, indeed, is willing to throw its weight behind funding early childhood education. The Partnership for America’s Economic Success, which is managed by the Pew Charitable Trusts, is convening the summit.
In a provocative column – “Will business buy into early childhood education?” – Folbre cites the recently released study from Chicago’s Child-Parent Center Education Program as well as “Investing in Kids,” economist Tim Bartik’s 2011 book. “Enthusiasm crosses the political spectrum,” she writes. “James Heckman of the University of Chicago, a Nobel laureate who is hardly a big advocate of government spending, is famously insistent on the benefits of early childhood education. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is another strong supporter. Last year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a report, ‘Why Business Should Support Early-Childhood Education,’ that includes a summary of efforts by some chamber groups to promote early childhood education on the state and local level.”
Could it be, Folbre wonders, that the information hasn’t sunk in or that business doesn’t want to wait for longer-term results? Or maybe many businesses are looking overseas for tomorrow’s skilled workers, not here in the U.S.
Noting that “the social rate of return on investments in children is high for taxpayers,” she concludes with a plea. “Many business owners are citizens and taxpayers who care about the well-being of the next generation. Those are the ones who will buy in to early childhood education. They had better do it soon.”