Early education is a largely safe topic for political candidates to preach on. Everyone is in favor of it, and it has few controversial attachments. Democrats and Republicans alike agree that making preschool and childhood education universally available is a priceless investment for the entire nation.
Early education puts children on a path to early literacy, higher grades, and an increased likelihood of both attending and completing college. There is research showing that pre-K education reduces a child’s chance of being involved in crimes as a teen and as an adult. And according to research by the Brookings Institution, a comprehensive national pre-kindergarten education program could increase our GDP by as much as $2 trillion annually.
But if everyone wants it, and it’s such a sound investment, why is it not a reality yet?
That answer, of course, is funding. Everybody wants universal early education, but no one can agree on who should foot the bill. It is yet another case of up-front expenses being prioritized above much larger long-term gains.
The Save the Children Action Network, an initiative group focused on exactly this issue, has a few ideas to bridge this obstacle, which they outlined in a paper released in mid-July. Their paper, “Innovative Financing for Early Childhood Education,” is more or less a list of possible funding solutions for universal childcare. It includes ideas about raising private investment, excise taxes, and trimming wasteful spending in the existing education budgets, ideas designed to appeal across party lines.
In the near future, the focus needs to be on encouraging the use of both public and private funding on programs both state and local that are already showing successes. Leaders in education need to pursue positive results at the local levels – that is where the ideas for a country-wide solution will come from.
Every political candidate should be talking about early education. The ones that are saying something of substance are the ones to listen to. And whoever gets elected, they absolutely must be held to their educational promises.