Early Head Start (for infants and toddlers), Head Start (for preschoolers) and the Child Care and Development Block Grant all play a critical role in helping children learn and their families work. But today these programs only have the capacity to reach 2.5 million at-risk young children, just one-third of those eligible and in need of services.
Early childhood education is one of the most cost-effective public investments our nation can make, particularly during a budget crisis. Short-term costs are more than offset by near-term and long-term returns, including lower special education referrals, less remediation and grade retention, better health outcomes, lower crime, and increased family self-sufficiency and productivity.
At a time when Washington is discussing the economy we will bequeath to future generations, investing in quality early childhood development is one of the smartest possible approaches to strengthen the economy in both the short and long term, while helping to reduce the debt in a balanced way.
The Early Learning Challenge helps states build more efficient early learning systems that will increase access to quality early education for the at-risk children who need it most. Yet high state demand outstrips available resources.