WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With legislation to improve and expand access to quality preschool now in deliberation by Congress, the Committee for Economic Development (CED), a nonpartisan, economic policy think tank, has released a statement outlining recommendations that lawmakers should take into consideration going forward.
"For over forty years, the trustees of CED have been successfully advancing early education, at both the state and national level, and through private and public initiatives," said Edward B. Rust Jr., a CED Trustee and the Chairman and CEO of State Farm®. "As leaders across a wide range of professions, we recognize that access to a quality education early on lays the foundation for America's children to succeed in an increasingly competitive workforce. Congress should follow the recommendations laid out in CED's statement to ensure that new legislation does just that."
The statement can be read below, and also viewed on CED's website.
A well-educated workforce is vital to a strong economy, global competitiveness, and a vibrant democracy. Business leaders know the basis of a sound education begins at a young age. High-quality child care and early education build a strong foundation of cognitive and social skills in young children. Together they can improve young students' engagement in school, their prospects for career development and financial achievement, and can have a positive impact on economic development. This is especially important for the growing number of young children living in poverty.
The Committee for Economic Development (CED) believes that our country's future requires that investments in our youngest children remain a national and state-level priority. A January poll of CED Trustees shows 65 percent support legislation that would create a federal-state partnership to provide high-quality preschool to children from low-income families. This makes sense considering only 16 percent of those same respondents believe that incoming employees are "well prepared" with the skills necessary to be effective workers, signaling a call to action to begin serious conversations on how to bridge the workforce gap, which research shows is established well before the elementary and secondary school years.
In a January 16 Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman weighs in: "Focused, personal attention paid to the young children of poor families isn't some warm, fuzzy notion. It's a hard-nosed investment that pays off in lower social welfare costs, decreased crime rates, and increased tax revenue." And his research has shown its impact. He says, "We're saving money for everyone, including the taxpaying middle class and upper class. Right now they're supporting prisons, health, and special education in schools. The benefit (of early education) is broadly shared. It's something that would actually accrue to the whole country." Our nation faces tough choices to renew the economy, but fiscal prudence cannot be served by under-investing in our children, which will no doubt result in later educational deficits and remedial expenditures.
As Congress gets underway in 2014, CED notes that the Strong Start for Children Act introduced in the Senate and House last November includes important provisions such as expanding access to early education and cost-sharing. We hope as deliberations continue that the country will support this important investment in our future.
CED Trustees remain committed to the following:
- Ensure all children are able to engage in effective, high-quality early-childhood programs from birth to age eight, beginning with those in the greatest need.
Research has shown that the foundations of school readiness are built well before the preschool years. Gaps in foundational cognitive skills (e.g., exploring the environment, pre-language "jabbering") are apparent as early as nine months, and widen later in early childhood. CED recommends meeting the comprehensive early learning and development needs of children as early as possible in their lives, especially for those whose healthy development is most at risk.
- Hold all early-childhood services to high program and practitioner standards that have been shown to promote healthy development and learning.
State standards must lay out developmentally appropriate expectations for what children should know and be able to do, establish competencies of teachers/providers, and require safety and quality in program sites; and those standards must be aligned with each other. To help level the quality playing field across the country, CED recommends improved standards must be financially feasible and attractive for programs and professionals. Additionally, success must be measured in reaching high-need children, and also in improving program and professional quality.
- Engage and support families in improving education and life prospects for their children and themselves.
Successful two-generation strategies must link services for high-need children to other services that improve their parents' capacities to parent, find good jobs, gain access to health and mental-health care, and put nutritious food on the table. Business leaders should understand and promote helping low-income students in regional public colleges, community and technical colleges, and for-profit colleges to access child care and other services they need to improve their success rates.
- Sustain success by guaranteeing high-quality full-day kindergarten and ensuring effective 1st through 3rd grade schooling.
The earliest years provide the foundation upon which the rest of human capital development must be built, but any impact must be sustained through smooth transitions and effective education in elementary school. Elementary schools must be ready to "take the baton" to support young children and engage their families. Just as children must be ready for school, schools must be ready to promote the full range of early learning, including social, emotional, and physical development. There must be more focus on improving the skills and capacities of teachers and their interactions with children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Additionally, state and school leaders should promote collaboration between childcare and early-education providers and the schools to promote alignment and smooth transitions to school.
About The Committee for Economic Development (CED)
The Committee for Economic Development is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, business-led public policy organization that delivers well-researched analysis and reasoned solutions to our nation's most critical issues. CED's work centers on the pursuit of seven core principles: sustainable capitalism, long-term economic growth, efficient fiscal & regulatory policy, competitive & open markets, globally competitive workforce, equal economic opportunity, and non-partisanship in the nation's interest. CED's research falls under four issue areas: fiscal health, education, global competitiveness, and democratic institutions. Learn more about CED online at www.ced.org, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.
SOURCE Committee for Economic Development