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economic and societal benefits, such as workforce development, high-school
completion, and reductions in children being held back in school. Nobel
Prize–winning economist James Heckman found that for every dollar invested
in early childhood programs, the annual return is seven to ten percent.
Military leaders also say that early childhood education is critical to
national defense. As written on the website for Mission: Readiness, an orga-
nization of senior retired military leaders working to educate policy makers
on the importance of children and youth development, “early education helps
children develop curiosity, character, and social skills—all key leadership quali-
ties needed for success in the military or other careers.” The Mission: Readiness
organization actively supports early education programs.
State and local economic planners have unearthed the same findings. As of
2011, over fifty-eight states and cities have completed economic impact studies
proving that early childhood education is critical for children’s later success in
life; therefore, early childhood education is a strong investment for the country
as a whole (to read more on this, see the report “Economic Impacts of Early
Care and Education in California” by Jenifer MacGillvary and Laurel Lucia).
High-quality early childhood programs are now seen as a priority, and public
policy is shifting to support this.
President Obama crystallized these findings in his 2013 State of the
Union speech: “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest chil-
dren . . . studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at
grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their
own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our
children start the race of life already behind.”
President Obama proposed an early childhood reform agenda to improve
the quality and quantity of early childhood programs. Instrumental to his plan
are the provisions for state standards, a rigorous curriculum model, and well-
trained, highly effective teachers who are well compensated. In November of
2013, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act was introduced in the Senate.
This act builds on the framework put forward by the president in his State of
the Union speech—it calls for new federal-to-state grants designed to improve
education for young children over a ten-year time frame.
If implemented, these reforms have the power to create a policy direction
that would level the playing field among young children in a way that has never
been accomplished in past government-backed education programs. Prior to
this current context, most of the national education-related focus has been on