Business Leaders Call On President Obama And Congress To Expand Preschool

On Wednesday, ReadyNation, a project of America’s Promise Alliance, released an open letter from 300 business leaders and organizations to President Obama and members of Congress supporting Obama’s proposal to make preschool universally accessible. Representatives from companies across industries, such as Proctor & Gamble, Citibank, Delta, IBM, Macy’s, Wells Fargo, McKinsey, and the Campbell Soup Company, signed the letter, as did state and local Chambers of Commerce and business roundtables.

The letter was sent to the White House and Congressional offices and will also be delivered to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at a meeting on Thursday with John Pepper, retired CEO of Proctor & Gamble, and James Zimmerman, retired CEO of Macy’s, and other business leaders.

It emphasizes the importance of early childhood education in developing a skilled workforce and creating economic growth:

Many of us compete in a global marketplace. We see other countries investing in their young children both for the long-term benefits of a stronger workforce and the current benefits that come from enhancing the productivity of parents. To compete, we have to do the same. […]

[Q]uality early childhood programs have a significant and positive impact on the skilled workforce, customer base, economy and nation we need. Behavioral skills highly valued by employers, such as self-discipline, persistence and cooperation, start in the youngest years and last a lifetime.

We rarely have the luxury of making business investment decisions with as much evidence as we have to support the economic value of investing in early care and education.

The assertion that expanding preschool will lead to economic growth is backed up by a body of research. A 2009 study found that universal programs lead to an increase in human capital as well as GDP. Other studies have found that every dollar spend on early childhood education generates about $7 in savings.

The programs also boost earnings potential for the children themselves. A study of Chicago’s preschool program found that every dollar spent generated $11 in economic benefits over a child’s lifetime. At-risk children who participate in preschool programs are more likely to go to college and less likely to drop out of school, become teen parents, or commit violent crime.

Meanwhile, access to quality preschool can free up working parents, particularly mothers, to go to work, ensuring a more productive workforce.

But while Obama’s proposed $75 billion to expand access to these programs would take advantage of these benefits, actual spending is moving in the opposite direction. States are spending the lowest amount on Pre-K in a decade. Meanwhile, the U.S. lags behind its developed peers when it comes to early childhood education.