President Proposes Smart and Urgent Investment with Early Learning Plan

Jun 05, 2013

By Hannah Matthews

The Academic Pediatric Association (APA) recently called child poverty: "the most important problem facing children in the US today." Nearly half of our youngest children, under age 6, live in households earning less than twice the federal poverty level, or $23,550 for a family of four. From children's earliest days, public investments fall far short of meeting their needs. And for both low- and middle-income families, the public safeguards and supports that have buttressed them during challenging times now face serious threats. Cuts under the federal budget sequester are in place and will get worse in future years. The country's safety net, which has deteriorated from having gaping holes to now being nearly shredded, is insufficient to help those who lost jobs and income in the recent recession.

This disinvestment in programs to help low-income families is not without consequence. Poverty robs young children of the developmental and educational inputs they need during a critical period of early development. The result: increasing numbers of children arriving in kindergarten without the fundamental skills they need for success in school and in life. With more children in households falling out of the middle class, we cannot afford, as a country, to ignore this crisis any longer.

We can do much to reduce poverty and increase opportunity in this country. And central to nearly every serious plan is a significant investment in child care and early education.The long term effects of high-quality early education for disadvantaged children have been well-documented. The return on investment has been calculated. The positive impact on the economy has been quantified. Economists, educators, business leaders, and policymakers alike have recognized the significant need for and substantial benefits of affordable, quality child care and early education for both children and parents.

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