Early learning essential for economic growth
As our nation slowly recovers from a crippling recession, it's worth examining what steps we can take to ensure a robust economic future. Oklahoma needs a skilled workforce. It needs to nurture people who will have the vision to lead us through the 21st century and beyond. It needs to provide opportunities for our youngest generation to become productive members of society.
In short, Oklahoma needs to build on the successes of early childhood education.
It's no secret that a good education enriches a person's quality of life, but less obvious is how the absence of education impacts all of us. More than half of the nation's business leaders say they think it will be difficult in the future to find educated workers. That's not surprising in light of some sobering facts. Out of 34 countries, the United States ranks 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. Such figures will only exacerbate our nation's attempts to compete in the global marketplace.
Education is key to economic development, but too often we forget that the vast majority of a child's brain is already wired by age 3. Why does the United States spend less than 5 percent of education dollars on preschool programs? Study after study indicates the value of early childhood education is immense, especially for children from impoverished families. A cost-benefit analysis by the National Institutes of Health found that every $1 spent on such programs could generate upward of $11 in economic benefits over a child's lifetime. You don't need to be a financial whiz to see that as an investment well worth making.