SOURCE: Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

November 13, 2013 13:02 ET

Law Enforcement, Retired Military and Business Leaders Unite in Support for Quality Early Learning

Bipartisan Legislation Would Expand High-Quality Early Education Nationwide

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - November 13, 2013) - A new legislative proposal to bring high-quality early childhood education to children nationwide got a rousing welcome from three surprising sources this week: retired admirals and generals who view it as a matter of national security; law enforcement leaders who want to lower crime; and business leaders who want better qualified workers.

Major General (Ret.) David Edgington, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and SAS CEO Jim Goodnight made their case for these outcomes at a Washington, D.C. event to unveil the legislation.

Sponsored by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), it would create a state-federal partnership to significantly expand the availability of high-quality early childhood education for children from birth to age 5 nationwide.

The legislation will accelerate the progress already made by Republican and Democratic governors of 25 states who have proposed or enacted major expansions of state preschool programs in 2013. It will also improve access to high-quality early-childhood care and education for infants and toddlers.

Preschool supports national security:

As General Edgington of Mission: Readiness noted in his remarks: "We tend to think about our military today in terms of its "stuff" -- fast jets, powerful ships, smart weapons and tanks; but the most powerful tool for our armed forces is still our people, our women and men in uniform.

"Unfortunately, 75 percent of young adults between 17 and 24 cannot qualify for military service because they are academically unprepared, are overweight, or have a criminal record. High quality preschool will help solve this problem by improving student performance, boosting graduation rates and preparing young adults for higher education and careers, including the military for those who choose to serve."

Preschool reduces future crime:

As noted by Sheriff Stanek, a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and President of the Major Counties Sheriffs Association: "Nationwide, 7 out of 10 inmates in state prisons don't have a high school diploma. That's a tough statistic. But I see the human toll every day when we arrest and lock up people who can barely read or write.

"Fortunately, we know from the research and from our own experience that quality early education gives kids the foundation they need for academic success. That helps them stay in school and out of the criminal justice system.

"So we've got a simple choice. Pay a moderate amount to get more kids into quality preschool now or pay guys like me a lot more to lock people up in the years to come. I hope we make the right choice, because law enforcement leaders have spoken loud and clear with their support for this partnership, with eight in 10 saying Congress needs to find a way to make it happen."

Preschool supports the current and future workforce:

Goodnight, a member of America's Edge, emphasized the importance of quality early learning for giving children the pre-literacy and pre-math skills they need for long-term academic success. This is especially important to a company such as SAS, which employs more than 13,000 people in 55 countries but faces difficulties in finding workers with the science, technology and mathematics (commonly referred to as STEM) skills the company needs.

Numerous America's Edge reports have highlighted research showing the impact of quality preschool on high school graduation, and documented the immediate economic benefits for communities that offer quality preschool as well. These benefits include millions of dollars from the sales of local goods and services and thousands of jobs. Quality early childhood and preschool programs also boost worker productivity for families headed by two working parents who perform better without the distraction of child care issues.

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