And it is because these nations are achieving what the United States should have achieved a long time ago: that early childhood education can lead to improvements in short and long term health outcomes in our children.
We tend to think of health in terms of the factors closest to the delivery of health care itself. Insurance, interventions, drugs, therapies. Yet it is the larger environmental issues – factors that those in the public health arena call the “Social determinants” of healthâWhich have a far greater impact on the well-being of a community than any other bedside care.
Dr Michelle Au
These factors include access to quality education opportunities, the availability of community resources and the ability to meet daily needs, all that universal early childhood education could provide, especially for low-income working families .
Most early childhood education programs have two main goals. The first is to provide cognitive, social and behavioral support to children in order to prepare them for kindergarten. The second is to facilitate parents’ ability to participate in the labor market by caring for children while they are working. High quality early childhood education has been shown to show improvement along both of these metrics. The Journal of Economic Perspectives it has even been noted, rather dispassionately, that quality early childhood education programs “constitute valuable social investments in the human capital of children”.
Yet over the past five decades, U.S. investment in early childhood education has declined relative to that of other wealthy countries. This gap is most pronounced in our public programs who tend to enroll low-income children, and only a fraction of those eligible, due to limited funds.
Ironically, some Republicans have opposed proposals for a pre-K universal national program despite its advantages, historically labeling measures such as government overspending and overreaching. Those same Republicans, meanwhile, wholeheartedly endorse measures such as work requirements for low-income parents to qualify for programs like Medicaid, essentially forcing low-income mothers to work without providing them with a safe place to go. leave their children.
In his joint speech to Congress last week, President Biden unveiled his bold and progressive Plan of American families, which, in addition to a series of other measures to support parents and children, planned to provide a preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child in the United States. This aims to close the gap in access to high-quality early childhood education for low-income children and facilitate their parents’ increased participation in the labor market.
Unsurprisingly, and sometimes bizarrely, Republicans have cried foul.
The night of the president’s speech, Sen, Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Tweeted, “You know who else loved the universal daycare[?]With a link to what she presumed to be an overwhelming New York Times article 1974 describing the heavily subsidized day care system in the Soviet Union. The article, in fact, reads like a hymn to universal early childhood care. âThe vast majority of Soviet families need a working woman to make ends meet,â the article says, and working-class women are âthrilled to have nurseries and kindergartensâ , while “offering children the beginnings of an education”.
The next day, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” and Ohio Senate possible hope JD Vance tweeted, even more perplexed, this universal pre-K would be “a massive subsidy to the lifestyle preferences of the rich over the preferences of the middle and working class” and thus constitute a “class war against normal people”.
The presumption implicit in the protests of Senator Blackburn and Mr. Vance is quite simply that “normal” working class people should not, would not choose, to avoid stay-at-home parenting rather than paid work at home. outside the house.
Meanwhile, the reality is that fewer low-income parents are availing themselves of a high-quality preschool simply because availability and resources are so limited, and just like the Soviet families described in the New York article. Times shared by Senator Blackburn, lowest to medium. American class families cannot survive on just one salary.
In addition, in States where there are universal pre-K programs, they are both successful and very popular. Georgians, in particular, should know our universal pre-K program was the first of its kind in the country, and now enrolled almost 60% of 4-year-olds in Georgia, with resulting improvements in their preparation for school according to a wide range of measures. Yet Georgia’s early childhood education program leaves out most 3-year-olds, and waiting lists exist, especially in the subways of Atlanta and Savannah. Ours is seen as a success story and a start, but we as a country can do more.
Partisan posture aside, America’s plan for families, and the universal early childhood education proposal at the heart of it, is an investment in the future of this country. It is an investment in our children, it is an investment in the parents who raise them and it is an investment in the health of our communities.
And as with many public health interventions, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Right now, these advantages are the ones we cannot afford to overlook.