Costs of Early Childhood Development - It's like a Vaccination

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It’s not a new topic, but we certainly seem to rehash it every year or so. With quality early childhood education, children will be school ready; have higher graduation rates and grow into productive citizens and valuable employees. And while our own state’s approach to preparing children for kindergarten now hangs in the balance in the court system, we have significant research about the first 2000 days of a child’s life.

It’s hard for me to understand the reluctance to devote resources to early childhood development.

“Children’s earliest experiences literally determine how their brains are wired; lay the groundwork for future health; and form the foundation of the social and emotional skills needed for academic and workplace success.” - First 2,000 Days

  • From an economic perspective it costs us more when we have young people dropping out of school, committing crimes, or receiving public assistance.
  • From a social perspective, it makes our communities safer and more vibrant because we have successful young people who participate in positive activities.
  • From an individual perspective, it makes a child stronger because it gives him/her a fighting chance to make a decent life.

So what’s the issue here?

There have been lots of studies about the cost of school versus the cost of prisons – two recent articles are linked here: NY Times/Kristof  and CNN Money.  As noted by Nicholos Kristof, “Growing mountains of research suggest that the best way to address American economic inequality, poverty and crime is — you guessed it! — early education programs, including coaching of parents who want help. It’s not a magic wand, but it’s the best tool we have to break cycles of poverty.”

So if we know it costs North Carolina 3 times as much to put someone in prison instead of preparing him or her to succeed in kindergarten and if we know there is a connection between success in the early years and success as an adult, why are we even having a debate? It’s like knowing that a vaccination will prevent a terrible disease that hurts or kills a lot of people and choosing to go with the disease. Smart move, huh? Let’s move in a different direction on this and support quality early childhood education every chance we get.

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