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The Business Imperative for Improving Early Childhood Education, Washington DC

The First Five Years Fund, CED, the Manufacturing Institute, and the Partnership for America’s Economic Success hosted a lunch briefing on Capitol Hill on March 11th to discuss the economic imperative for investing in our nation’s young children. The briefing drew an excellent turn-out of Congressional staffers and other policy leaders for the discussion.  The discussion was moderated by Harriet Dichter, National Director of the First Five Years Fund.  Speakers included:

  • Rob Grunewald, associate economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He conducts economic research and is the author of "Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return."
  • Al Stroucken, Chairman and CEO of Owens-Illinois, Inc., the world’s leading glass container manufacturer with more than 22,000 employees in 21 countries. The $7.1 billion company is headquartered in Perrysburg, Ohio. In addition to his leadership on behalf of Owens-Illinois, Inc., Mr. Stroucken has a longstanding commitment to the United Way.
  • Lloyd Lamm, the regional banking executive for the Capital Region of First National Bank, headquartered in western Pennsylvania. Mr. Lamm is a member of Pennsylvania’s Early Learning Investment Commission, whose mission is to secure support for public investment in early learning by focusing on practices that are educationally, economically, and scientifically sound.


Excerpts from the discussion

  • Isn’t raising children the role of parents? Yes, but if we expect parents to work – and we do need them to work – it’s disingenuous to say that it is the parents’ problem and we are not going to help them fix it.  Also, we must consider that the children are the next generation of workers. We cannot afford to ignore this problem. Business is now starting to address this issue because it is not being addressed by policymakers. We must be the voice for young children and particularly poor children.
  • If we don’t address this problem, we will have further societal issues and a national competitiveness issue that will be hard to fix.
  • Where do we get the money? We have to make choices. This is a business issue. We need workers. We need child care for workers. We need education for our future workers.
  • In Ohio, only 2% of education funding goes to support children ages 0-5 yet 90% of the brain develops in those years. It doesn’t make sense. We have nearly 60% of children entering school not ready. This is a fundamental US competitiveness issue. It isn’t about doing good. It is about making money. China now has 10% more engineering graduates than the US. We are falling behind.
  • Kids need to know how to read and write, how to deal with other people, how to work together as a team. They need to be emotionally ready for the workplace. Early education helps prepare them for that workplace. Critical thinking and problem solving are developed by age five. Those are the skills that business needs. Waiting for them to get to school is too late. We must start earlier. And we must make a sufficient enough investment if we want to see a real return.
  • People ask about the so-called fade-out that has been shown in research on Head Start. Those studies focus on high IQ. As a businessman, that’s not something I look at when I’m hiring. I look at how they interact, how they problem-solve, how they work with people. That’s most important. Early education gives kids the social, emotional and cognitive skills they need to be prepared for life and for business. It gives them the ability to operate in a changing environment. That’s what matters to business when we are hiring.