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Blog, In the News

The case for investing in early education

May 20, 2015

Quality early education makes children more successful – and all of us reap the benefits for generations to come. Chuck Denny and Mark Shriver make the case for investment in early education in a Courier-Journal viewpoint.

From the Courier-Journal, May 19:

Generations of Kentuckians have improved their lives through education. In recent years, we have found that school success and the foundation for adult productivity depend on an early introduction to learning.

All children deserve a strong start. But in far too many communities, children in poverty miss out. Without access to high-quality early learning programs, children fall behind. Many never catch up.

They confront educational, health, and safety challenges not experienced by children from more affluent families. Throughout their lifetime, at-risk children are more likely to complete fewer years of school and experience more years of unemployment.

Yet children may attain a successful education if they receive quality learning in their first years. Parents who read and talk to their child at a young age lay the foundation for physical, cognitive, social and emotional development long before kindergarten begins. And the results are remarkable and quantifiable.

For example, a recent study by Duke University revealed that North Carolina’s investments in early childhood education significantly reduced the number of children in third-grade special education programs. This performance improvement resulted in significant cost savings to the state. In addition, early education can close the achievement gap between at-risk children and their better off peers. The Louisville community should find this especially relevant given that nearly 40 percent of children live below the poverty line, compared with 25 percent statewide.

Save the Children and Jefferson County Public Schools recently announced a partnership with the goal of reaching children and their parents when it counts. Funded by the PNC Foundation, the Early Steps to School Success initiative plans to provide early educational assistance to local underserved children. The program also delivers services to their homes to help parents and caregivers develop strong school connections.

The three-year initiative marks the first time Save the Children has brought its internationally successful childhood education programs to Louisville. Its administrators will focus on young children and families in the south and west Louisville neighborhoods served by Hazelwood and Whitney Young Elementary schools. We find this effort compelling because it engages underserved families throughout a child’s early life, when 85 percent of brain development occurs.

Last year, 84 percent of children enrolled in Early Steps to School Success for at least one year had vocabulary scores at or above the national mean. This achievement is impressive for children who face an average of five “risk factors,” including poverty, premature birth, substance abuse in the household, and teenage or illiterate parents.

The importance of a child succeeding in school cannot be underestimated. When we establish the right foundation for children’s development, we meet our obligation to provide them the tools they need to succeed in school and life. Please join us in asking our elected officials and community and business leaders to support investments in early education.

Quality early education makes children more successful – and all of us reap the benefits for generations to come.

Charles P. Denny is the regional president of PNC Bank for Greater Louisville and Tennessee. Mark K. Shriver is the president of the Save the Children Action Network