Early childhood participants are ready to learn and contribute in school from day one. They experience stronger academic gains and better social and emotional development. Over the course of their lifetimes, they are 33 percent more likely to be employed and earn on average $5,500 more per year than their peers who didn’t participate in early learning programs. These improved outcomes benefit all of society and the entire economy. Heckman has found that every dollar invested in early childhood programs returns 7 to 10 percent – per child, per year – for the life of the child through increased productivity and reduced social costs.
Investing in early childhood education addresses the causes of poverty, not just the symptoms. It helps young people and their families become more self-sufficient and productive, providing low-income parents with critical skills they need to be better parents and ensure their children are prepared for kindergarten.
There is widespread support for early learning from both the private and public sectors. The business community has rallied around early childhood with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce highlighting the link between early learning and a strong workforce, and corporations such as AT&T and PNC Bank making major commitments in this area.
A number of governors have been strong supporters of early childhood programs, and policymakers of both parties in many other states are working together to improve program quality and make sure they are investing wisely. The common denominator is the growing realization that our nation must have a workforce development strategy in place for every child that is born, and we cannot wait another day to begin preparing the workforce of tomorrow
At a time when Washington is discussing the economy we will bequeath to future generations, investing in quality early childhood development is one of the smartest possible approaches to strengthen the economy in both the short and long term, while helping to reduce the debt in a balanced way. The only way to create a stronger economy and workforce in the future is to invest in early childhood education now. This year, let’s make it happen.
DeLauro represents Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District. Perry is executive director of the First Five Years Fund, which advocates for federal policies and investments that promote quality early childhood education.