National business organizations and economists have long touted the benefits of investing in high-quality early education.
“With current early childhood education resource levels, too many kindergartners will continue to begin school ill-prepared,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says, “and businesses will lack the necessary workforce to fill the jobs of the future.”
And there’s this from the National Association of Manufacturers: “Access to high-quality early education and learning opportunities is integral to helping today’s children prepare for the highly competitive, fast-paced global economy.”
And this from the Committee for Economic Development: “Our nation now faces tough choices to renew the economy, but fiscal prudence cannot be served at the expense of under-investing in the well-being and future of our children – and thereby preventing unnecessary remedial expenditures. CED believes it is vital for our country’s future that investments in our youngest children remain a major national and state-level priority,”
A few statistics underscore the need in Massachusetts:
- 68% of Massachusetts’s jobs in 2018 will require a college degree, but only 54% of young adults in the state have completed college.
- 39% of Massachusetts third graders scored below proficient in reading on the 2012 MCAS – including 60% from low-income families – and performance has been virtually stagnant since 2001.
- Children who struggle with reading in third grade are four times less likely than other students to finish high school by age 19.
- Almost 8,000 Massachusetts students dropped out of high school in 2011-12.
- Each high school dropout in Massachusetts, on average, costs $349,000 more over a lifetime – in decreased tax revenues and increased public assistance costs – than the average graduate.
Research backs up the business organizations’ interest in high-quality early education as critical to addressing this need. It produces short- and long-term benefits, particularly for children from low-income families.
- Participants are 40% less likely to be referred to special education or held back a grade, 30% more likely to graduate from high school and twice as likely to attend college.
- Participants demonstrate stronger early literacy and math skills.
- High-quality early education helps develop children’s social-emotional skills and their ability to focus and stay on task, all essential for success in the 21st century workplace. Children’s ability at age 4 to pay attention and complete a task strongly predicts their chances of graduating from college by age 25.
- At age 40, adults who had participated in high-quality early education as children earned, on average, $5,500 more annually.
Massachusetts – home of the nation’s first consolidated Department of Early Education and Care – has laid a strong foundation for a statewide system of high-quality early education and care. Yet the commonwealth has not invested the funds to finish building the house and bring the system to scale. Funding for early education and care has declined more than $80 million since fiscal year 2009. It has declined 28% since FY01. Governor Patrick seeks to turn this around with $131 million in new investments in high-quality early education and care in FY14.
The bottom line is it’s an investment with a proven return.
“Early childhood programs are a good investment, with inflation-adjusted annual rates of return to these funds of 10% or higher,” says Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. “Very few alternative investments can promise that kind of return.”
For more information, see our new brief — The Path to a Competitive Workforce Begins with High-Quality Early Education.