Business Leaders to Policymakers: Early Childhood Programs Must Remain Budget Priority

  • July 21, 2011

About

More than 200 business executives, policy makers and civic leaders from across the country are convening today in Boston to discuss the critical role that results-driven early childhood policies play in promoting states' short- and long-term economic vitality. Attendees also will lay plans for increased efforts to publicly support those policies in face of historic state budget and program cuts.
 
The invitation-only National Business Leader Summit on Early Childhood Investment, held July 21—22 at the Boston Harbor Hotel and Boston Federal Reserve Bank, is sponsored by the Partnership for America's Economic Success (Partnership), a project of the Pew Center on the States; the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers; the Massachusetts Business Roundtable; Citizen's Bank; and the Boston Business Journal. The summit is hosted by United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

"Science shows that investment in effective early childhood policies can yield returns that include a well-prepared workforce, a future customer base with the means to buy products and services, more productive current employees and reductions in public expenditures on criminal justice, welfare and other remedial services," said Rob Dugger, managing partner of Hanover Investment Group and Partnership chairman. “As pressure on federal and state budgets squeeze proven children's programs, our nation loses critical opportunities to produce the skilled workforce that we need to compete globally and grow our economy.”

In an analysis released at the conference, Dr. Timothy Bartik, senior economist at the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, found that the economic development benefits of a high-quality pre-k program for all three- and four-year-olds eventually yield as much as $4.50 per dollar invested. These savings are realized in the form of increased earnings from higher wages and improved employment rates.

"Despite the challenge of our current economic climate, business leaders continue to advocate for results-driven early childhood programs," said Sara Watson, Partnership director and senior officer at the Pew Center on the States. “The summit provides a forum for executives to learn from other states, where their peers have successfully protected proven early childhood investments from budget cuts." 

"Early childhood programs should be attractive to policy makers interested in fiscal discipline," said John J. Brennan, chairman emeritus and senior advisor, The Vanguard Group, and keynote speaker at the Summit. "When presented with research regarding the increased literacy and graduation rates, and the savings in special education spending that result from proven early childhood programs—it is obvious that these are smart investments that reap substantial economic and social dividends."

Over the next two days, summit participants will hear about successful business advocacy efforts for early childhood initiatives in states such as: 

Alabama:  In the face of deep state budget cuts, business leaders persuaded policy makers to maintain the previous year's funding of the state's pre-k and children's health insurance programs, and preserve the budget for the state's child advocacy centers.  They also convinced the legislature to cut less than what was proposed from other early childhood programs. 

Colorado:  The business community helped ensure that the budget presented by the newly elected governor was not balanced through cuts to early childhood initiatives, including the state's pre-k program. 

Pennsylvania:  Business leaders connected with each potential gubernatorial candidate, educating them about research that shows continued investment in early childhood programs provides a good return for the state. As a result, all candidates voiced support for early childhood initiatives. Executives also held an economic summit in Harrisburg, drawing close to 200 business and civic attendees. In addition, 34 members of the Governor's Early Learning Investment Commission met with state representatives to educate them on the importance of early childhood investments. This year, the newly elected governor funded early childhood programs at the same level as the previous year, even in the face of a $4 billion budget deficit.

Virginia: Business leaders successfully advocated maintaining funding for the state's pre-k program and secured 25 percent more money for home visiting programs. Executives also helped restored public investment in the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to support systems building work called “Smart Beginnings.” More than 700 business leaders are now a part of this network, discussing how early childhood initiatives can make Virginia globally competitive now and in the future. 

"Business leaders are powerful and effective advocates for early childhood initiatives; our mission is to arm them with credible research and help them continue to push for smart early childhood investments in their home states,” Watson said. "There is no doubt that proven public policies benefiting America's youngest citizens are a boon to the nation's economic future."

Participants will depart the summit armed with a new guide for advocates published by the Pew Center on the States.  Mobilizing Business Champions for Children  (PDF) provides guidance on communicating the economic importance of investments in young children and outlines specific strategies for engaging corporate leaders in the advancement of evidence-based policies. 

Additional speakers at the summit include The Honorable Deval Patrick, governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Eric Rosengren, president, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; Ken McNeely, president, AT&T California; Al Stroucken, CEO, Owens-Illinois; Richard Stephens, Senior vice president human resources, The Boeing Company; Michael Durkin, CEO of the United Way of Massachusetts; and Ann Cramer, director, Americas, IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs. 

To view a summit agenda, a full list of speakers and to learn more about the Partnership for America's Economic Success, visit www.PartnershipforSuccess.org. Twitter event hashtag: #investinkids.

The Partnership for America's Economic Success, a project of the Pew Center on the States, amplifies the voice of business leaders in support of early childhood policies that strengthen our economy and workforce. The Partnership is managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts and is funded by the George Gund Foundation, Ohio Children's Foundation, Paul Tudor Jones, Robert Dugger, Society for Human Resource Management and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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