Retired Military Leaders: Preschool Funding Key To National Security

Investing in universal preschool wouldn’t just benefit hundreds of thousands of kids in each state, boost everyone’s annual earnings, and catch America’s kids up to the rest of the world. It would also address a major national security concern, according to a new report from Mission: Readiness, a non-profit representing military leaders.

The report illustrates that pre-K programs improve educational and social outcomes, and notes that “sophisticated weapon systems alone cannot protect us” without sufficiently educated soldiers to navigate “tomorrow’s modern battlefield.”

Seventy-five percent of America’s young men and women are ineligible for military service due to insufficient education. One in five high school graduates who sign up fail entrance exams. Accordingly, Mission: Readiness titled their report “A Commitment to Pre-Kindergarten IS A Commitment to National Security.”

That reframing of a social policy in a national security context is reminiscent of the group’s 2012 report, “Too Fat To Fight,” which argued for government action to address obesity as a national security imperative. Like its obesity work, Mission: Readiness’ support for early childhood education provides another facet to an important policy conversation.

Those generals, admirals, and other leaders join the business community in supporting the sorts of preschool investments President Obama has proposed. In late May, a coalition of 300 business leaders released an open letter calling for expanded preschool programs. Such an expansion would help reduce dropout rates, teen pregnancy rates, and crime rates. And while many existing pre-K programs are currently facing multiple layers of budget cuts, this is an example of a short-term expenditure that saves America money in the long term. Mission: Readiness estimates that investing $75 billion over ten years would yield $150 billion in net economic benefits.