With President Obama’s announcement yesterday that $1 billion in federal funding will be used to expand high-quality early childhood education programs, he delivered on his promise to help more children access the early education they need to succeed in school and in life. The funding will expand educational opportunities for tens of thousands of children.
President Obama stated in his remarks that investing in young learners is “one of the best investments we can make,” citing studies that repeatedly show that children who are educated early in life are more likely to finish their educations, avoid the criminal justice system, hold good jobs and have stable families.
Early childhood education expert Dominic F. Gullo, PhD, a professor and associate dean of research in Drexel University’s School of Education, believes that there are a number of reasons why an investment in early childhood education is a good one.
According to Gullo, this investment will:
- Increase the profile of early childhood education across the country as something that is worthy of attention and dollars. As investments in programs are made and the country becomes cognizant that early childhood education can make a difference in the lives of children and families, there is an increased awareness of the importance placed on the variety of programs labeled as “early childhood.”
- Increase the understanding of what is included in early childhood education and how it impacts the lives of children and families. These programs affect the lives of children and their families throughout the early childhood years. The early childhood years extend from birth through age eight and the programs that children attend may take many forms. These include childcare programs, preschool programs, Head Start, kindergarten and grades one through three. These programs can take place in the private sector or in the public sector. Investments in all types of early childhood programs will ensure optimal development and learning for the children who attend.
- Increase awareness that high quality early childhood education has academic, social and economic benefits for communities and the country. Research clearly demonstrates that children who attend high-quality early childhood programs are more likely to finish their schooling, more likely to avoid the criminal justice system, less likely to need special education services and more likely to hold better jobs and have stable families. There is a price associated with each of these and research shows that every dollar that is spent on high-quality early childhood education programming generates over two dollars in economic impact. Overall, the economic impact of high-quality early childhood education generates up to 17 dollars in long-term public savings.
- Increase the understanding of what constitutes “high-quality” early childhood education. If we are to realize the benefits described here, we must make certain that the early childhood programs being funded are high-quality ones. This means the actual experiences that children have in an educational setting are good experiences and the operational characteristics of the program – which are often regulated through state and city governments – allow it to be sustainable.
- Make strides in helping to close the gaps in both education and opportunity for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Research demonstrates that children who live in poverty are especially affected by high-quality early childhood programming. Those children show less of an educational gap, or no gap at all, when compared to children who are more economically advantaged.
- Increase the understanding and awareness that high-quality early childhood education has long-term benefits that continue well into the future. As already indicated, there are many academic, social and economic benefits that are realized by children who attend high-quality early childhood programs. What is important to understand is that the high-quality nature of early childhood programming must be maintained throughout the early childhood years. A high-quality preschool or kindergarten is not an inoculation against poor quality first, second and third grades.
- Increase the number of high-quality early childhood education programs, making it possible to reap the clear benefits of these programs. It stands to reason that if $1 billion is invested in high-quality early childhood programs, there will be increased interest in early childhood education and what makes it high quality. This investment will also increase the research that is done on early childhood programs and their effects, adding to the number of programs designated as “high quality.”
Gullo is an expert in early childhood education, language and literacy development, urban education, child development, cognitive development, school reform, children of poverty, assessment of young children and program evaluation.
News media interested in speaking with Gullo should contact Alex McKechnie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-895-2705.