National Poll Reveals American Business Leaders Link Access to Pre-Kindergarten Education to Country's Economic Prosperity

National Poll Reveals American Business Leaders Link Access to Pre-Kindergarten Education to Country's Economic Prosperity

Facing a decline in the number of skilled workers, American business leaders overwhelmingly back public funding for pre-kindergarten for all children to keep the U.S. economy globally competitive, according to a survey by Zogby International. The survey of 205 senior executives at Fortune 1,000 companies and other firms with more than 1,000 employees was released today in conjunction with a forum of more than 200 business leaders, economists, and educators. The event, "Building the Economic Case for Investments in Preschool," is sponsored by the Committee for Economic Development (CED), The Pew Charitable Trusts, and The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC).

The findings reinforce studies that prove children who attend high quality pre-kindergarten are more likely to graduate from high school, be involved in their communities and succeed in the workplace.

"Concerns about the quality of the American workforce and our economic future were implicit in the responses of business leaders," said John Zogby, president of Zogby International. "What was truly surprising was not just the recognition that pre-kindergarten is essential to a better educated workforce, but that 63 percent of the business leaders favor active support for such universal programs by the business sector."

Survey findings include:

  • Almost half (49 percent) said the level of workers' skills decreased over the last decade.   
  • More than half (54 percent) anticipate difficulty finding enough educated and skilled workers to fill future jobs.   
  • One in three (38 percent) said American firms already are disadvantaged when compared to foreign firms based on workers' education.   
  • One-third (34 percent) said their companies are recruiting foreign candidates to fill U.S. jobs requiring special skills or education.   
  • Eighty-three percent rated the importance of a skilled workforce as "very high" if the U.S. is to remain globally competitive.   
  • Four in five (81 percent) said public funding of voluntary pre-kindergarten for all children would improve America's workforce.

CED President Charles E.M. Kolb said, "When one-third of American companies are going overseas to find educated workers, and 38 percent of business leaders say we already face a competitive disadvantage, it is clear that there are serious problems in the American workforce. The new CED survey of American business leaders makes clear that immediate investments in effective preschool programs are vital for our future competitiveness in the global economy. America's business leaders understand that quality pre-k programs for our young people will mean a more competitive future workforce and a stronger democracy."

"The day-to-day reality of succeeding in an increasingly competitive marketplace demands skilled and educated workers," said James E. Rohr, PNC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, whose organization's 10-year, $100 million investment in school readiness, PNC Grow Up Great, is the largest corporate-led commitment of its kind. "Investing in the academic success of our children directly contributes to the overall economic health of our nation."

On the agenda for today's forum were presentations of new research on the economic benefits of high quality pre-kindergarten programs along with panel discussions of topics such as public and private funding options.

In one research paper, Investing in Disadvantaged Young Children Is an Economically Efficient Policy, Nobel Prize-winning economist James K. Heckman of the University of Chicago said that preschool and other early interventions for disadvantaged children "raise the quality of the workforce, enhance the productivity of schools and reduce crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency. They raise earnings and promote social attachment. Focusing solely on earnings gains, returns to dollars invested are as high as 15-17 percent" (per year).

"Research has shown that early education for kids matters immensely, and this survey finds that business leaders agree," said Susan K. Urahn, Director, State Policy Initiatives, The Pew Charitable Trusts and co-sponsor of the conference. "Business leaders are coming together as part of this conference to discuss how investments in pre-k are not just good for the kids but they are good for the economy and for the future of our country."

The Zogby survey has a margin of error of plus or minus seven percentage points. A summary of the Zogby poll is available on the Committee for Economic Development Website.