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Monday, November 14, 2011

A Wise Investment

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 jim@dcc.org to join the Education Task Force at the Chamber.

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