Supporting high-quality learning for our youngest children is crucial for our country
Advocates in Alabama helped secure $18.5 million in public funding for pre-K, expanding access to 32% of the state’s four-year-olds.
By Dr. Raychael Jensen, Portfolio Manager – Early Childhood and Families
Educators, neuroscientists, and economists agree – high-quality early childhood education is of paramount importance to the future of our country. Take a look at the evidence:
During their first few years of life, children make more than one million new neural connections per second, which builds the foundation on which all later learning, behavior, and health depend.
The socioeconomic impact is powerful. Graduates of high-quality early childhood education are 20% less likely to experience unemployment, 40% less likely to be arrested, and 65% less likely to commit a violent crime.
Investments in early childhood care and education have a higher return on investment than in any other stage of development. Every dollar invested in quality early childhood education - from birth to five years old - provides taxpayers with a 13% return per year.
Yet, the United States severely underinvests in our youngest children, with spending lagging behind nearly all developed countries. Limited public funding means too few children have access to quality early childhood education. For example, only 16% of three-year-olds are served in public preschool programs, and the federal Early Head Start program only reached 7% of eligible children in 2017.
At Ballmer Group, we believe our country needs to commit significantly more public funding to quality early childhood education. Strong state advocacy is one strategy, out of many, to achieve this goal. To this end, we are proud to support the Alliance for Early Success, which resources premiere advocates to help enact policy change in all 50 states. Our investment will be used to protect and grow states’ public funding for early childhood education, while ensuring quality is maintained or improved.
State advocates educate influencers, political candidates, and elected and appointed officials about the most effective policies that can lead to transformative outcomes for young children. Some examples of these policies and investments may include home visiting, infant mental health, high-quality child care, and pre-K education.
One example of their impact: the Alliance supported a state advocacy organization in Alabama and helped secure $18.5 million in public funding - the highest single-year increase in the state’s history - to expand access to pre-K. Now, 32% of the state’s four-year-olds can attend pre-K in the upcoming school year. This early investment will provide benefits for years to come - graduates of the program have significantly higher reading and math proficiency in third and sixth grades compared with their peers who did not attend the program.
We believe investing in state advocates, and supporting them to learn from one another, is key to building a national movement to fully fund quality early childhood education. While state advocacy alone is insufficient to address the public funding gaps, it is one essential lever to drive change. Thanks to the catalyzing work of the Alliance for Early Success, we see greater support for early childhood education across the country, and Ballmer Group will continue to explore complementary investments in service of our nation’s youngest children.