Our keynote speaker at our Leadership Days this past Spring wanted to leave particpants with an “elevator speech” about why early childhood education is so important. This is the first step in continuing our grassroots efforts to spread the message that we need to keep funding early childhood education now and in the future. There are 5 key propositions to this elevator speech – you can add or adapt it for you but tell parents, friends colleagues to share what they know too!
1. Kindergarten is too late — at least its too late for many children, especially those from disadvantaged households. Children who do not arrive at Kindergarten ready for the structure and content of the formal educational process are behind on day one and never catch up!
2. Early Education Generates High Returns! Return on Investment can be calculated, and that return is competitive with or superior to many discrete projects typically justified in economic development terms. Even Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, agrees with this!
3. We (Society) can pay now or pay later. Failure to invest in pre-school programs results in failure in school which forces the channeling of resources – tax dollars, philanthropic and United Way funding – to treatment of social problems that are the consequence of that failure in school. Failure in school unquestionably contributes to the appalling statistics we see in phenomena such as school drop outs, teen pregnancy, crime and incarceration.
4. Success requires public and private leadership. For the foreseeable future, leadership action and effective delivery of early education will require a hybrid model. Achieving quality in early education requires concerted efforts on the part of the public education system, nonprofit agencies, for-profit providers, churches, and a diverse funding community. Government financing and other support are likely to be necessary, but not sufficient. Business leadership – as is so often the case at the state and community level – is critical to fill gaps and gain traction.
5. Finally #5 – the train is leaving the station. Many states and communities across the country are moving forward on this issue and momentum for early childhoold education is building. There is a growing recognition that this is an idea whose time has come and progressive communities ought to and are getting on with it. With regard to international economic competition, the train has left the station. Many of our competitors are well ahead.