The Case for Business Investment in Early Childhood Education
New study finds that virtually no one believes less should be done to support Early Childhood Education (ECE)
Okay, that's probably not that surprising. What might surprise you in First Five Years Fund's recently-released report is the widespread public, cross-sector, and bi-partisan support for investment in zero-to-five education. Specifically, the 800 voters surveyed for their report believe overwhelmingly that: 1) Early Education should be regarded as a national priority- second only to increasing economic prosperity and decreasing the tax burden; 2)Early child education and care must be more affordable; and 3) Congress needs to act NOW to increase access to excellent and affordable early education and childcare services.
On the heels of the survey's release a group of Chamber CEOs and business leaders gathered at the US Chamber last Wednesday to advocate on behalf of business investment in early child preparedness programs. Speaking at the gathering, Brian Maher, the retired chairman and CEO fo Maher Terminals and former chairman of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce was quoted in a Washington Post article saying: "If somebody had said to me about a decade ago...that I would one day be down here in Washington speaking on behalf of early chidlhood education, I would have thought they were on drugs."
On drugs he was not. An evolving body of research and data showcases early education's astounding return on investment, and Maher joins a growing contingency of business and public sector leaders that have seen the connection between investment in a child's formative years as a direct investment in our future economy.
For a synthesis of the wide array of early childhood initiatives chambers and business organizations are engaging in across the country, refer to the recently-released study by America's Promise Alliance and project ReadyNation, with support from ACCE: Championing Success: Business Organizations for Early Childhood Investments.
The report shows that at least one state chamber of commerce, large city chamber, or state business roundtable in 44 states has publicly supported early childhood policy initiatives.
Numbers Don't Lie: Take a look to determine the potential impact of your investment.
- $11 of economic benefits over a child's lifetime for every $1 spent on Pre-K programs
- $7 in reducing societal and economic costs for every $1 spent on early childhood education
- Reduction in crime and societal costs
- Increase in college attainment and social and economic mobility
The Early Childhood Imperative
Last month I became a true believer in the importance of early childhood initiatives for America's economic future. I saw the light in Boston, sometime between dinner Thursday and lunch Friday at the National Business Leader Summit on Early Childhood Investment. This two-day meeting of more than 200 corporate, foundation and non-profit executives was organized by the Partnership for America's Economic Success - a project of the Pew Center on the States.
Maybe it happened during the opening keynote when Harvard's Jack Shonkoff illustrated the science of childhood brain development or during the lunch panel when Boeing's senior V.P. for human resources spoke candidly about America's long-term need for creative, adaptable workers. Perhaps it happened in the afternoon workshop when Tim Bartik from the Upjohn Institute highlighted the economic returns for every dollar invested in young children. Regardless, I left Boston a believer.
What struck me most was learning just how much each of us is set up for success or struggle, productivity or incarceration, by the events of our first four years of life. It made me feel quite small. On my way home Friday, I called my mother from the airport and thanked her for reading to me every day from birth until I could comprehend the words on my own.
In addition to a fresh dose of humility, I left Boston with the passion that Kim Sheeler at the Richmond Chamber and Billy Canary at the Business Council of Alabama already have for this issue. Newly minted CCE Jim Page from the Decatur-Morgan County (AL) Chamber, who was also in Boston, informed me that early childhood education is their number one issue.
Chambers of commerce have a long history working on education. The issues are always complex and often emotionally charged. Progress is slow and setbacks are many. But education continues to top chamber agendas because businesses need talent. Our economy runs on smart, adaptable, well-educated people. The innovative, talented people America needs are shaped long before they enter first grade.
Many state and local chambers are already champions for more effective policies to help children develop into successful adults. Others are poised to join. To provide chamber leaders with the best information about the economic and workforce benefits of early childhood programs, ACCE has entered into collaboration with the Partnership for America's Economic Success, a project of the Pew Center on the States.