For immediate release:
Nov. 12, 2014

Media contact
Amy Katzel
(202) 667-0901

Open Letter from Academics, Researchers: Increase Investments
in High-Quality Early Childhood Education

James Heckman, W. Steven Barnett, Jeffrey Sachs, Linda Darling-Hammond, Susan Neuman among signatories to endorse state and federal investments in birth to five initiatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of more than 500 researchers and academics from around the country released an open letter today urging policymakers on all levels of government to support greater investments in high-quality early childhood education. The letter, released in conjunction with the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and the First Five Years Fund (FFYF), includes signatories such as James Heckman, W. Steven Barnett, Jeffrey Sachs, Linda Darling-Hammond and Susan Neuman.

The letter crystallizes an overwhelming body of research in human development, psychology, education, and economics, which details how high-quality early childhood education programs for children from birth to age five are one of the best economic bets we can make. Research shows that investing in these early years, particularly on behalf of disadvantaged children, produces impressive social and economic returns. Some of our country’s costliest fiscal challenges – grade repetition, special education, high school dropout, crime, and health costs – all are shown to be impacted significantly by evidence-based investments in early education. Quality early education can be brought to scale, with examples available across the country.

Within the past year, states as diverse as Alabama, Maine, Michigan, New York and Washington have made early childhood education a political priority. Governors, mayors, CEOs and law enforcement officials are coalescing around early childhood education as a trusted path to improving education, family, and economic outcomes. But this isn’t an excuse for the federal government to sit on the sidelines. Federal investment is vital to help ensure childcare, home visiting, Head Start and other programs have the necessary resources to provide high quality services consistent with the science of early learning.

“Too many American children do not receive the education and support in their first five years that science tells us contributes to life success,” said W. Steven Barnett, Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). State funding for pre-k increased by $30.6 million in 2012-2013—a step in the right direction, but a small one, according to NIEER’s 2013 State Preschool Yearbook. “Policymakers across the political spectrum have put their support behind early education programs, so it’s time to see funding increases that reflect that support,” according to Barnett.

Fortunately, momentum is building. This year alone, Congress launched a $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition which has generated interest from 35 states, extended the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, and allocated $1.4 billion in early childhood education funding.

A recent national poll by the bipartisan team of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research for the First Five Years Fund confirms that voters also view greater investment in early childhood education as a critical issue for states and the nation.  Seventy-one percent of voters support greater federal investments and 64 percent say our political leaders should be doing more to ensure that children start kindergarten with the knowledge and skills to do their best.

“Today’s letter reinforces the broad base of consensus in the academic and research community behind early childhood education as a tangible tool to solving a number of social and economic problems,” said Barnett. “This is one of the soundest choices policy leaders can make.”

Among the signatories of the open letter are:

  • James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics, University of Chicago
  • Steven Barnett, National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers
  • Jeffrey Sachs, Earth Institute, Columbia University
  • Linda Darling-Hammond, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University
  • Susan B. Neuman, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University
  • Berry Brazelton, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Harvard Medical School
  • Barbara Bowman, Erikson Institute
  • David Kirp, Goldman School of Public Policy at University of California, Berkeley
  • Irwin Redlener, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University
  • Jack P. Shonkoff, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
  • Timothy Bartik, Senior Economist, Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
  • Deborah Phillips, Department of Psychology, Georgetown University
  • Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University


The First Five Years Fund ( helps America achieve better results in education, health and economic productivity through investments in quality early childhood education programs for disadvantaged children. FFYF provides knowledge, data, and advocacy – persuading federal policymakers to make investments in the first five years of a child’s life that create greater returns for all.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (, a unit of the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research.