Last week, the Morgan County Business Leaders’ Summit on Early Childhood Education was hosted by the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of the summit was to focus on making young children a top economic priority.
One might begin to wonder, how on earth is Pre-K tied to business or economic success? The workforce development panel argued there are two reasons:
1. It matters to the current workforce. In Alabama, 63% of children from birth to age 5 have both their parents in the workforce. So access to childcare (and one would hope quality, learning based childcare) is a necessary support for working families.
In addition, 90% of women and 80% of men reported that childcare was important to them in terms of changes or improvements in jobs or employment according to a 2009 Ask Alabama Poll. Working parents can be more productive at work if their childcare needs are met.
2. It matters if we want to have a future workforce. A staggering 38 out of 100 of students don’t graduate from high school in Alabama. It is even higher in some areas of the state. In a working world that increasingly requires at least a high school diploma to be hired, we’re losing more than a third of the potential worker pool due to lack of education.
High quality Pre-K has been proven to close the educational achievement gap. Over one-half of the gap in school achievement is present at school entry, and if a child is not reading on grade level in 1st grade, there is a 90% chance he/she will not be reading on grade level in 4th grade. Pre-K can help eliminate these gaps, especially for children living in poverty.
If someone told you that they had an investment for you that guaranteed a 16% rate of return would you invest? We’d all be stupid not to. In comparison, the stock market’s annual real rate of return from 1871-2010 was 6.72%. Well, a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis determined that annual real rates of return on public investments in the Perry Preschool Project (high quality preschool) were 16%. My question is, as businesses, governments, and individuals why aren’t we all investing?
Many individuals and companies see the connection and have a dream of investing. But like Jim Fincher, Site Manager at 3M Decatur said, we need the dream, but we also need the plan to make it happen. We need a mechanism for interested parties to invest. If you are interested in creating such a plan for Morgan County, email Jim Page at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the Education Task Force at the Chamber.