The First Five Years Fund (FFYF) is glad that President Barack Obama chose to prioritize investments in early childhood education in his State of the Union address – for the third year in a row. We applaud this effort to bring national attention to the importance of strengthening our nation by investing in our greatest resource – our children, from birth to age 5. In red states and blue states alike, proposals to invest in early childhood education and development are more and more becoming the norm – and tonight was no exception.
The President’s call this evening includes a major reform of the tax code resulting in significant relief for working families seeking quality, affordable, safe child care. Specifically, the White House proposal would triple the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), from $1,000 to $3,000 per child, and would make the credit more widely available to middle-income families – benefiting 5.1 million families and 6.7 million children, the majority of whom are under 5 years old.
The conversation started tonight follows significant and substantive talks on Capitol Hill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), create significant new federal investments in quality pre-k and early childhood education, and to create a more robust system for promoting the development of children from birth to age 5 – especially those from low-income backgrounds. FFYF recognizes the difficult decisions that must be reached in order to significantly reform the federal tax code, to create new investments in early childhood education and to ensure early education is adequately integrated in a revised ESEA. But we also recognize the significant economic potential of these fiscal decisions – and are committed to finding bipartisan paths to success for investments in high-quality childhood education, especially for low-income children from birth to age 5.
Brain scientists, educators, economists, and public health experts agree that the foundation for success begins during pregnancy and is built through age 5. Research from Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman also proves that early childhood education is a smart investment. Every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood programs for disadvantaged children produces a 7-10 percent per year return on investment through improved education, health and social outcomes and decreased social spending.
Tonight’s announcement comes on the heels of the White House Summit on Early Education where President Barack Obama announced Invest in US, a public awareness campaign that challenges business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, public officials and the public to build a better nation through high-quality early childhood programs for children from birth to age five. The event was a milestone following two straight State of the Union addresses prioritizing early childhood education. In December, President Obama announced greater than $1 billion for early childhood education – through public and private investments. Today’s announcement contributes greatly to the ongoing effort to continue making early childhood programs a policy priority.
Several governors, mayors and lawmakers – Republican and Democratic – have also taken the proper steps forward to vocalize their support for increased investments in early childhood education this year. Just last week, Indiana’s Governor Pence vowed to invest $10 million a year to fund scholarships for the state’s preschool pilot program. In North Dakota, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are considering a bill that would create the state’s first publicly-funded preschool program to provide access to as many as 6,000 children. And in New Mexico, the state senate is considering a budget proposal that would approve $25 million in funding to expand early childhood education in the state.
FFYF is pleased that 2015 has kicked off so positively for our nation’s children. After a strong 2014, we only hope that momentum for early childhood education will continue throughout this year with widespread, bipartisan support and even greater investments.
The First Five Years Fund (ffyf.org) 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.