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Business Student & Regional Leader Forum on the Economic Benefits of Investments in Early Education

CED, in partnership with the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and Greater Richmond Chamber hosted a forum on the economic promise of investing in early childhood development at the University of Richmond. Decades of research shows that when implemented effectively, high-quality early education programs fight poverty, reduce the likelihood of imprisonment, and increase likelihood of success in future education. Speakers included Virginia General Assembly Delegates Jennifer McClellan and Chris Peace; Edward Ayers, President, University of Richmond; James Dunn, President, Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce; Tom Shields, Director, Center for Leadership in Education, University of Richmond; Sherrie Brach, CEO, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg; Colleen A. Kraft, President, Virginia Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics; Gail W. Johnson, President, Rainbow Station and PRISM, Inc.; and Robert Lynch, Chair, Department of Economics, Washington College.

Virginia General Assembly Delegates Jennifer McClellan and Chris Peace discussed the importance of early education to bolster the future workforce but cite political challenges to supporting funding. Both emphasized that business support for early education has helped to make a difference in the Virginia budget debates. Delegate Chris Peace noted, "The Virginia Preschool Initiative passed in 1994, and recently renewed, recognized that the business community has long held that we ensure a highly skilled and educated workforce to compete in a global marketplace. To improve economic growth and the financial sustainability of our community, investments must be made in education at all levels." Delegate Peace also emphasized that the engaged student is less likely to engage in criminal activity, unemployment is less frequent, and imprisonment less likely. The final budget compromise in the Virginia legislature on pre-kindergarten added $13 million to target on free lunch programs and added $9 million for incentive programs to serve more at-risk four year olds. Delegate Peace continued, "We must focus tax dollars on the poorest households who are often those who find themselves out of work as adults or in jail. If we are going to spend more money in the budget then we must target that investment- like a business would- to those who have the most critical need."

High-quality early education pays for itself

Dr. Lynch, who recently testified before the House Appropriations Committee, stated, "In my own research, I analyzed the projected costs and benefits of an enhanced Head Start program that would serve all 2 million children who are eligible-- as opposed to less than half-- as it is now. A larger, improved Head Start program would generate total annual budgetary earnings and crime benefits that would eventually exceed the costs of the program by a ratio of more than 12 to 1 and annual government budget benefits alone that would outweigh the costs of the program by more than 3 to 1." Dr. Lynch added, "The policy of investing in early education is the best way to increase child well being, increase educational achievement and one of the best ways to reduce crime and creates a lasting benefit for children, their families and society at large."

This event is one in a series of forums CED is hosting across the country with support from the Buffett Early Childhood Fund in an effort to bring the message of the economic benefits of high quality early education to MBA students, who will be the next generation of business leaders. CED has built the case for investments in early education among American business leaders for over forty years. Graduate business students are America’s future business leaders, and the earlier they become involved with public policy issues the more likely they are to become corporate statesmen. As business leaders become exposed to the latest research showing the public-private benefits to early investments they begin to see early childhood education as a necessary ingredient to economic competitiveness.

Kristen Binette, a MBA student at the Robins School closed the forum with a call to action for future and current business leaders, "Together we desire a capable, skillful workforce that vigorously competes in the state, national and global levels. We are committed to focusing our efforts where they can be most effective, in early childhood."

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