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Why America Needs High-Quality Early Care and Education

May 14, 2009
Over the past three decades, business leaders have invested time, expertise and resources in efforts to improve K–12 education in the United States. What Corporate Voices for Working Families and the Business Roundtable have learned leads to the conclusion that America’s continuing efforts to improve education and develop a world-class workforce will be hampered without serious federal and state commitments to high-quality early care and education for all children, zero through five. In challenging economic times, it is essential that public investment be as efficient and effective as possible. Investments in quality early care and education, with a particular focus on children most at risk, are a wise and safe investment in our nation’s success.

Focusing resources on the first five years of life is essential to creating a system of learning and development that will meet the needs of young people and help American business stay competitive in the 21st century global economy. Scientific evidence clearly shows that children’s experiences during these early years heavily influence their growth and development. High-quality early care and education that focuses on children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development provides the foundation that children need to enter school ready to learn. As University of Chicago economist and Nobel Laureate James Heckman says, “Skill begets skill; motivation begets motivation. If a child is not motivated and stimulated to learn and engage early on in life, the more likely it is that when the child becomes an adult, [he or she] will fail in social and economic life.”