Washington –As part of the White House Jobs and Opportunity Tour, President Obama visited a Baltimore-based Judith P. Hoyer Early Child Care and Family Education Center (“Judy Center”) this morning, highlighting an important early childhood program as he aims to increase public investments in early learning education and development services.

First Five Years Fund Executive Director Kris Perry joined Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier in March to tour an affiliate Judy Center in Takoma Park, Md. During this time, they witnessed first-hand the role these exemplary birth-to-five programs play in transforming the lives of vulnerable children, their families and the economic well-being of the broader community.

“Public investments in early learning make good economic sense,” Perry said. “Not only will two-parent working families gain the critical support they need for their youngest children, but the broader community will also feel the social and economic impact over the long-term.”

Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman’s research shows investing in high-quality early learning for disadvantaged children from birth to five is not only the most effective way to prepare them for school, it also lifts the economy by paying dividends to their families and taxpayers for the life of the child. Early childhood investments yield a 7-10 percent return – per child, per year – through improved education, health and social outcomes and the reduced need for social spending.

“The demands of the global economy and 21st century workforce depend on these critical investments in early learning, and are supported by a better understanding of how skills are developed. The earliest learned skills and experiences have the greatest influence over later school achievement, college graduation, career choice, income level, healthy lifestyles and constructive social behaviors. Building skill upon skill from infancy through preschool, school and young adulthood is the best way to guarantee a highly valuable workforce that drives a strong national economy.”

Judy Centers are just one example of the local innovation happening around early childhood education. Republican and Democratic-led states alike are developing efficient and effective early childhood programs. Federal support will improve the quality of these programs and encourage continued state leadership, while reducing social costs and building a strong workforce.

“This evidenced-based, successful program exemplifies an important aspect of the President’s vision for early childhood. We look forward to working with the President and the early childhood education community over the course of the next few months to highlight similar programs for children birth-age five and to help develop a comprehensive plan for action moving forward.”

Rachel Zaentz