What if I offered you a sure-fire investment that would pay $3 to as much as $16 for every dollar wagered? Would you think it was some kind of Ponzi scheme?
But wait! It gets better: This can’t-miss opportunity doesn’t just benefit you — it benefits society. We’re talking about preschool. That $2 to $15 profit represents increased tax receipts over the lifetime of children who attended preschool, as well as reduced use of such things as social services, special education, juvenile detention centers, and prisons.
We don’t generally discuss raising our children in such crass commercial terms, but maybe we should. Because as I found out researching my July ASBJ story — Early Learning, Long-Term Benefits — all our sentimental talk about caring for children and their futures hasn’t spurred the nation into providing critical opportunities for many of its youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers, state-level preschool funding fell by $145 per child last year and $700 per child over the past decade. Part of this is surely do to the poor economy over much of that period, but when that economy improves, as it must sooner or later, will the nation put up the kind of money it needs to match its rhetoric?
There are some positive signs. Throughout the country, forward-thinking school districts are putting new emphasis on the quality of their students’ lives before kindergarten. And they’re realizing that to be successful they don’t have to do this alone — indeed, that they must have the support of a wide community network, the creation of which promises dividends every bit as rich as the kind of numbers mentioned above.
For the July story, I visited one of these districts close to ASBJ’s home: the Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, a large, urban, highly diverse district where 90 percent of 12th graders graduate from high school and 77 percent of these graduates go to college.
Many other districts across the country that are doing the same thing and working to make preschool a seamless part of their now-PreK-12 curriculum.
You could say they’re doing it because “children or our future” or something equally heart-warming. Or you could just all it a smart investment.