The United States faces a critical time in preparing young people for the demands of the workplace and setting them on a path to contribute to the well being of our communities.
The 2011 Indiana CEO survey asked executives their opinions about education in terms of its ability to serve the needs of the business community. Indiana’s business and education communities share a legitimate concern regarding an issue driving this crisis: Our state graduates less than 82 percent of all high school students.
Graduation is the outcome of the educational system. Until we improve the beginning of education in Indiana, our children will not achieve their fullest potential. Research data have repeatedly shown that investing in high quality preschool programs and fully funding full-day kindergarten produces higher numbers of high school graduates. Children who participate in such programs are also more likely to strive toward higher vocational aspirations and contribute to society later in life.
Providing early childhood education is like pouring the foundation of a house; if it is done correctly, then it will support a lasting structure. Without a strong foundation, repeated “patch and repair” will be needed.
When children start school behind their peers, they are likely to stay behind. If we do not develop a child’s early literacy skills, this is where the “patch and repair” begins, and too many children never catch up.
“School Turnaround and Transformation,” a document from Scholastic Education Group, stated: “The link between literacy and the dropout rate is staggering. Students in the bottom quartile of reading achievement are 20 times more like to drop out than those in the top quartile. A student’s level of reading achievement in the 8th grade is the single biggest predictor of his or her ability to complete high school.”
Research by Legal Momentum’s Family Initiative and the MIT Workplace Center found that states which invested in high quality early education for children of all social and economic groups accrue several long-term benefits:
1) Lower cost for remedial and special education, and grade repetition
2) More school completion and higher skills
3) Better job preparedness and ability to meet future labor force demands
4) Higher incomes and tax payments from those who complete school
5) Lower criminal justice and prison costs
6) Fewer welfare payments
The Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., estimated that, if pre-kindergarten instruction was offered to all U.S. children, $8 would be returned for every $1 invested.
Nobel Prize winner and University of Chicago Professor James Heckman and economists Rob Grunewald and Art Rolnick evaluated public funding of early childhood programs as an economic development strategy. Returns on investment in early education “far exceed the return on most projects that are currently funded as economic development, such as the building of sports stadiums or relocating businesses,” they concluded.
Without public investment in early childhood education, Heckman contends, U.S. workforce skills will remain low, furthering our country’s loss of productivity and economic competitiveness.
Research demonstrates increased cognitive skills for children from both low-income and middle-income families involved in early education. A study conducted by Gromley, et al, of a “pre-kindergarten for all” program in Tulsa, Okla., found that middle-income children who attended pre-K scored 41 percent higher in assessments of letter-word identification and 17 percent higher in spelling than their peers without pre-K.
Those are measurements of academic success upon which students can achieve later successes. When they reach primary grades, these children will be primed to learn.
To that end, PNC created Grow Up Great, $100 million dollar investment in early childhood education. With this 10-year investment, PNC wants to send a message to our communities and employees: We are in this for the long haul.
In the last 7 years, approximately 20,000 PNC employees have volunteered as early education advocates, and logged approximately 176,000 volunteer hours at early childhood centers. In addition, employees have donated more than 260,000 items for use in classrooms or for the personal well-being of preschool children.
Indiana can no longer be one of eight states that do not fund preschool and attempts to fund full-day kindergarten by a limited kindergarten grant process. If we are to change the outcome of the educational system, let’s start at the beginning — NOW!
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