Discussions about the value of early childhood education seem to have landed on deaf ears in North Carolina’s General Assembly. Every once in a great while the issue comes up for discussion, but very few legislators seem genuinely interested in debating it. There is far more interest in providing money for vouchers, and reducing the number of teacher assistants in the elementary classrooms. In the meantime, research continues to show that funding early childhood education will ultimately provide a better educated populace, save us money by lowering incarceration rates, significantly improve high school graduation rates, raise income levels, and improve people’s health. In all, it’s a win-win situation if only we would be willing to invest in the future.
In his recently published bestseller “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” Robert Putnam makes it abundantly clear that the education gap among social groups is growing at an unprecedented rate. He also emphasizes that cognitive stimulation for children between the ages of two and five is critical for their future development. Unfortunately, for children born into low income households such stimulation is relatively non-existent. Therefore, offering low income children an opportunity to attend day care centers that focus on academics will inevitably make a positive difference in their lives – and the future of our state.
When it comes to public school education, North Carolina’s leaders have been making poor decisions for many years. It is high time that our state’s political leaders stop thinking about the present and consider the future. There is no better investment in our future than education and we need to focus on our children’s formative years. If we make academics a priority for our children, from the very beginning (pre-school and elementary school), we will not have to worry as much about correcting for our missteps once they arrive in high school. It comes down to a simple concept – pay me now or pay me later.