Photo: Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

“High-quality early education programs are vital to future economic growth and maintaining a highly skilled workforce.  Support and investments at the national, state, and local levels for early education programs must continue to be a priority despite the downturn in the economy.  CEOs and prominent business leaders must assume a more active role in advocating for early education programs.”

This is how the Committee for Economic Development (CED) sums up its latest recommendations for investing in young children, from birth to third grade. Its recent report “Unfinished Business: Continued Investment in Child Care and Early Education is Critical to Business and America’s Future” summarizes the research on high-quality early education and urges CEOs to champion the issue, “invest at least 1% of your corporate earnings in public-private partnerships that support early childhood in your community or state,” and adopt family-friendly policies in their companies.

“Our nation now faces tough choices to renew the economy, but fiscal prudence cannot be served at the expense of under-investing in the well-being and future of our children – and thereby preventing unnecessary remedial expenditures. CED believes it is vital for our country’s future that investments in our youngest children remain a major national and state-level priority,” the executive summary states.

“CED now builds on and expands previous recommendations in light of new research and the current economic context. We call for a national strategy to ensure that all children have access to high-quality child care and early education from birth to third grade that promotes their learning and development while strengthening and engaging families in their children’s education.”

At a time when 85% of jobs require skilled workers, the rate of on-time graduation from high school is falling, childhood poverty is rising, and progress in college attendance and completion is slowing, the report notes. And, it adds, one-fifth of the U.S. labor force is functionally illiterate or innumerate.

“Investing in high-quality child care and early education builds a strong foundation of cognitive and social skills in young children that can improve their engagement in school and increase per capita earnings and economic development. Business leaders and policymakers should consider investment in young children one of the most effective strategies to secure the future economic strength of their communities and the nation,” the report states.

In addition to recommending increased investments in high-quality early education, the CED report recommends guaranteed access to full-day kindergarten and effective primary grade instruction.

“Early education is the first building block of a good education,” CED President Charles Kolb said in a news release. “American companies and business leaders must step up and ensure that we continue to expand and improve early education programs. The CED report is a call to action for business leaders and a research-based blueprint for getting our children off on the right foot in their education.”