Lancaster Online Op-ed: Businesses: Invest in Preschool Education

JENNIFER HENRY | Special to LNP
Congratulations to our youngest graduates, those just out of preschool.

Local families will proudly cherish photos of their preschoolers wearing miniature mortarboards and clutching colorful diplomas this graduation season.

But do we fully understand the meaning of this occasion and its impact on these children and their eventual place in society?

A child’s success in school, and ultimately in life, is tied to this event marking the passing of a child’s first five years spent, at least partly, in an early learning program. As research over the past 20 years is proving, there is an awful lot to celebrate.

Children who have access to high- quality care and learning in their first five years are:
— More likely to enter kindergarten prepared to learn and, according to a 2007 report for the Louisiana Department of Education, less likely by half to need special, costly interventions and supports.
— More likely to graduate from high school and less likely to be incarcerated.
— More likely to enter higher wage-earning fields and less likely to rely on public subsidies as adults, according to Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek.
— More likely to enroll in college and better prepared to enter military service, according to the organization Mission: Readiness.

Further economic studies help us understand the benefits of high-quality early learning in terms of return on investment. For every dollar invested in early learning, there is an immediate return in terms of job creation, availability of employees in the job market, and increased revenues realized through purchase of services and goods in communities.

Over the long term, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children says, there is an estimated 17 to 1 return in terms of economic benefit from an initial investment in early learning.

And then there is science —biological evidence that brain development is 90 percent complete by age 5. Synapses and neurons are being fed by early-learning investment, too.

The experiences a child has up to this point — at home, in preschool, in child care — shape his trajectory for life. We are creating human capital, and we only get one chance per generation to do it right. There is no rewind button for the first five years.

Read the full article here.

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