Response to Pres. Obama’s early childhood proposal

Feb 14, 2013


Every major national priority — strong defense, vibrant economy, clean environment, good health — requires a well-educated workforce and citizenry. We are most likely to achieve that goal when all children have a good start in life, especially in the crucial years from before birth to age five. 

President Obama’s proposal to expand and improve early learning and care for children in the first five years of life is an essential element of that foundation. Early childhood education and care is a proven strategy to increase school-readiness and help children learn the skills necessary for life success — how to plan, persevere, solve problems, and work collaboratively. Early education and home visiting are among the most proven interventions to help children thrive. Rigorous research has established the impact of early childhood development on increasing parent productivity and advancing societal welfare through greater employment, increased revenues and lower costs to society.   

Hundreds of business leaders working with ReadyNation, a project of America’s Promise Alliance to mobilize business champions for early childhood, have endorsed early childhood investments as an effective use of public resources to strengthen our economy and prepare our youngest children for success in school and in life. America’s Promise Founding Chairman General Colin Powell and current Chair Alma Powell have been vocal in their support of starting early to raise our nation’s high school graduation rates. Leaders including Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke (and executives from five other regional Federal Reserve Banks), PNC Financial Services Group CEO Jim Rohr and others have all endorsed early education as an economic imperative. So far this year at least 10 governors — both Republicans and Democrats — have proposed expanding their early childhood programs — they know the health of their state depends on children’s success.

We applaud several specific elements of this plan:

  • Encompassing the entire 0-5 spectrum – children begin learning before birth so supporting them throughout those first few years is crucial

  • Focus on disadvantaged children – concentrating on at-risk children is the best use of federal dollars.

  • Providing pre-k for all 4 year olds under 200% of poverty – it’s time to move beyond incremental change.

  • Flexibility for states – it’s important to give states opportunities to expand early learning in a variety of ways.  For example, a few states, such as Massachusetts and Georgia, have created departments of early childhood, which should be eligible to administer any funds.

  • High quality options for parents – early education should be provided in a variety of venues, including private child care centers, to give parents many options and to keep the private child care market viable.   Similarly, offering a variety of proven home visiting programs is necessary to meet different circumstances.

  • Promoting quality – poor quality services don’t help children and waste precious public dollars

  • Rigorous evaluation – allowing states to use funds to evaluate early childhood services will help determine whether they are accomplishing their intended goals and using public money effectively.   This data is also essential for developing social impact financing vehicles that could use funds saved from better outcomes to pay for more early prevention services.

A mountain of research shows that early education is an effective way to increase parent productivity, improve children’s lives, create jobs and grow the economy.  Children don’t get to relive their first few years, and what wasn’t done right in the first place can be hard and expensive to fix.  If we want a strong, competitive economy, we have no time to waste.  

John Gomperts

President and CEO
America's Promise Alliance


Robert H. Dugger

Managing Partner, Hanover Investment Group
Advisory Board Co-Chair, ReadyNation

        Dr. Sara Watson


        Executive Vice President, America's Promise Alliance
        Director, ReadyNation


        Philip A. Peterson


        Partner, Aon Hewitt
        Advisory Board Co-Chair, ReadyNation

ReadyNation, a project of America’s Promise Alliance, is a business partnership for early childhood and economic success. Our mission is to amplify the voice of business leaders in support of early childhood policies and programs that strengthen our economy and workforce. ReadyNation is a key component of Grad Nation, a large and growing movement of individuals, organizations, and communities working together to end America’s dropout crisis.