- Investing in early childhood education offers substantive benefits both in terms of the economy and of healthier and better prepared students and families, University of Chicago economics professor and Center for the Economics of Human Development Director James Heckman says in an interview with NPR on a new report he co-authored.
- Heckman acknowledged that while quality early childhood education could be costly, it should be seen as an up-front investment that will pay economic dividends when a student has healthier and more stable outcomes.
- Heckman’s report detailed two programs in North Carolina that were founded in the 1970s and worked with infants from eight weeks old until age 5, following the children up to age 35 and offering a wealth of prescient data to draw upon.
One reason universal early childhood education is so valued by advocates is the fact that it is not yet "universal." Certain students benefit from early education while others lag behind, and the worry is that if those deficiencies are in place by the start of kindergarten, the gaps may grow by the end of that first school year. If the gap can be closed earlier, it is more beneficial for the child and more cost-efficient in the long term.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City agrees with the argument that universal childhood education is not only the correct moral move, but astute economic policy. Earlier this week, De Blasio announced “3-K For All”, an expansion of his "Pre-K For All" initiative that proposed pre-kindergarten seats for all of the city's 4-year-olds. De Blasio argued that for every dollar spent on early childhood education, there was long-term savings for taxpayers equal to about $13.
Prior research of countries with more robust early childhood education indicates that greater communication with parents leads to greater participation, and New York has been very public about its pre-K plan. The mayor’s office touts numbers indicating there are 69,510 students enrolled in free, full-day pre-K, compared to 19,287 from the program’s first year in 2013-2014, which seems to show that public promotion can yield sizable results.