Stop Missouri cuts to early childhood benefits
The Kansas City Star
Last week the Missouri Legislature proposed close to $30 million in cuts to the state’s child care system through the Department of Social Services and restricted funding for early education through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
While budget restrictions are a reality, cutting these supports – to families trying to work and go to school, to training programs improving the safety and quality of childcare providers, and to school districts expanding their pre-school offerings – is short-sighted and in the long-run only serves to cost the state more.
Over the last decade, several studies have shown that the best way to build a strong workforce is to invest in the long-term: start children out right.
The community’s return-on-investment in quality early childcare and education ranges from $8 to $16 per $1 invested. These studies come from economists like James Heckman of the University of Chicago and Art Rolnick of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank.
The research is clear: if a child is behind in vocabulary at age 3, she is likely to be behind in reading in 1st grade. If she is behind in 1st grade, she will most likely be behind in 4th grade and there is a 75 percent chance that she will be behind throughout high school.
In other words, that child will be less likely to be a strong player in the workforce. In addition, research shows that children who participate in quality early childhood development have a reduced need for remediation and welfare, pay more in taxes, and participate in less criminal activity. In other words, investing in early childhood education is good for the child and good for the community.
Yet our legislators want to cut funding for our childcare system. Last week’s proposal would result in Missouri ranking last in the nation for supporting families through childcare subsidies. These are the funds that allow parents to go to work knowing that their child is in safe, quality childcare settings.
The workforce issue, therefore, is current, not just one of investing in the future.
This recognition of the importance of early childhood to both my business and our community led me to mobilize fellow business owners and CEOs around the Alliance for Childhood Education (ACE).
ACE is a group of Kansas City-area business leaders who support investments in quality early childhood education. It is founded by business leaders for business leaders. The backbone of any business is its human capital: the skills and abilities of the workers who keep the company running.
How do we grow the talent pool? By investing in strategies that develop human capital and are proven to produce a return on investment. By investing in quality early childhood programs. Please join me and ACE in telling our legislators that funding for these programs must be restored.
Jonathan Freiden is President/CEO of US Toy Company and founder of the Alliance for Childhood Education.