Congress should invest in early learningInvestment in our children’s development is a key issue for Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation
By: By Ken Taylor, Jim Leonhart and Jon Stellmacher, Superior Telegram
Investment in our children’s development is a key issue for Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation as they consider budgets for childcare, Head Start and Early Head Start, and for Early Learning Challenge Fund, a program to help states build strong systems for early learning.
In times of tight budgets, we must spend every dollar wisely to ensure the greatest possible short-term impact and long-term returns. Investing in quality early education for children from birth to age 5 today will realize gains tomorrow. High-quality early learning programs help children develop knowledge and character, leading to success in school and productivity as adults.
Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman, an international expert on developing human capital, concludes from his research that “investments in high-quality early education programs have the highest rate of return of any social investment.”
Why are these early investments so cost effective?
They produce jobs in the short run, and deliver long-term economic gains of 10 percent per year.
They save us money by helping prevent the school achievement gap for disadvantaged children and minorities, reducing the need for special education, remediation and corrections, and maximizing taxpayer investments in education and health.
It is time for our nation to invest where it has the greatest bang for the buck — in early education. We urge our congressional delegation to support funding that sustains recent progress in Head Start/Early Head Start and in Wisconsin’s childcare programs, and to launch the Early Learning Challenge Fund.
Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee recently passed YoungStar, a program to help assure high-quality childcare services to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Additional federal resources would help Wisconsin build a robust early care and education program.
Continued support from the federal government will help hard-working families afford essential childcare services and help our children succeed in school and beyond. It is one of the best investments we can make.
Ken Taylor is executive director of Wisconsin Council on Children and Families; Jim Leonhart is executive vice president of Celebrate Children Foundation; and Jon Stellmacher is co-chair of Partnership for Wisconsin’s Economic Success