Giving Compass' Take:
- This article originally appeared in aei.org on July 5, 2017.
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Business leaders have long understood the importance of a well-educated workforce to support a strong economy, keep America competitive globally, and ensure a vibrant democracy. And they have long played a leadership role in strengthening the education pipeline so crucial to our economic growth and prosperity. Yet mounting evidence suggests that the nation’s K–12 schooling is falling short in preparing new generations for the ever-changing demands of the 21st century workplace.
Research shows that developmental gaps between higher- and lower-income children emerge long before children start school. Gaps have been observed among children as young as nine months old. By 18 months, toddlers from low-income families can already be several months behind their more advantaged peers in language development. One widely-cited study found that by age three, children with college-educated parents had vocabularies as much as three times larger than those of children whose parents did not complete high school — a gap so big, researchers concluded, that even the best intervention programs could, at most, keep the less-advantaged children from falling still further behind.
The American public increasingly recognizes the importance of early childhood. Almost three-quarters of respondents in a 2016 bipartisan poll identified the period from birth to age five as the most significant for developing a child’s capacity to learn.
A full 82% of Republicans, 86% of independents and 98% of Democrats said that “making early education and child care more affordable for working parents to give children a strong start” is important for our country. And almost 80% of respondents said that public investment should be made equally or more heavily in early childhood than higher education.
For American business, advancing high-quality childcare is a winning proposition. It’s a wise investment in America’s future — strengthening business today while building the workforce we’ll depend on tomorrow and for decades to come.