If you knew of an investment that earned a return of $17 for every dollar you spent, you’d say it was too good to be true. Yet, the RAND Corporation has reported that for each dollar invested in high quality Pre-K, society receives between $1.80 and more than $17. In 2010, James Heckman, a University of Chicago economist, reported there’s a “seven to 10 percent per annum return.”
The deck is already stacked against economically disadvantaged children when they arrive for kindergarten. There are numerous benefits in educating at-risk kids early in life and taxpayers reap the rewards, too.
- Well-developed programs close learning gaps in disadvantaged children. These changes can be seen as soon as their first year, and can continue to improve throughout early childhood.
- With early education programs, individuals do better in life and are less likely to need special education and remedial work.
- Educating at-risk students early in life increases their chances for graduation and college enrollment.
Results and Competitive Advantage
Those seeking more confirmation of the value will be pleased to learn that Oklahoma and Georgia (both with widely available public preschool programs) have confirmed that participating students have made gains on almost every academic measure. A few more insights:
- Our economic competitors, including Mexico, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, already have universal or near universal free preschool enrollment for children from the age of three. They know that knowledge development breeds competitive advantage.
- Business is on board with this too. In a recent survey, 81 percent of business leaders said that public funding of voluntary prekindergarten programs would improve the nation’s workforce.
- While the Commonwealth has recognized the value of early childhood education and created integrated programs to address the issue of quality and quantity, much more needs to be done. In a recent poll shared by PCCY, “63% of Pennsylvania voters support investing more public funds in high quality pre-k, even 58% say they are willing to pay higher taxes to pay for it.