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Annie Busch believes learning skills for high-tech jobs must start early.
Annie Busch believes learning skills for high-tech jobs must start early.

Study: Early education pays economic benefits

Posted online
According to a recent report, it’s never too early to think about education’s role in the economy.

Early-childhood education pays economic benefits as children get older, said Hugh McDonald, Entergy Arkansas president and CEO, and the business community should back the effort to improve its availability.

McDonald outlined a report funded by New Orleans-based Entergy that studied economic benefits of high-quality pre-schools at a Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Mayor’s Commission for Children event Sept. 2 at the chamber office.

The chamber identified early-childhood education as a key strategic and legislative priority for 2010 in the wake of a Market Street analysis of the city last October, said Sandy Howard, chamber vice president for public affairs.

McDonald pointed to how preschool improves academic performance and, ultimately, earnings potential.

“For society as a whole, it will reduce costs of unemployment insurance, reduce burdens on the criminal justice systems and actually increase tax payments because more people will have more income,” McDonald said. “What our study attempted to do was to try and demonstrate the cost benefit. Our report, like many others, shows that there is a positive payback.”

Highlights include:
• Adults with less schooling are more likely to be unemployed than those with high-school diplomas, higher degrees or training. The report cited 1999 jobless rates for non-high school graduates (6.7 percent), graduates (3.5 percent) and bachelor’s degree recipients (1.8 percent).
• Preschool education increases the likelihood of high school graduation, which increases lifetime earning potential by 8 percent for each year of high school. The earnings difference for a man age 35 to 44 with a high school diploma compared to one without is $12,473 annually. The difference for a woman in the same age group is $8,164. Men ages 25 to 34 whose highest education level was grade nine through 11 earned 29 percent less than those with a high school diploma; for women, the figure was 37 percent.
• A national preschool education program would require an initial investment of about $7.9 billion but would return $74.6 billion.

To download the report, click here.

The Market Street assessment pointed to a culture of poverty, in which families have come to accept poverty; it showed 2007 poverty rates of 13.7 percent for families and 19.9 percent for children in Springfield. Both rates were the highest of the communities studied – Knoxville, Tenn.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Kalamazoo, Mich.

Also cited as a weakness was lack of diversity of the area’s people, Howard said.

After the findings were released, chamber board Chairman Tim Rosenbury said the board established 2010 strategic priorities and identified two areas to focus on – early childhood education and diversity (See the cover story, “Diversity in Development”).

“Families in poverty are raising children who represent our future work force,” Rosenbury said. “That’s a concern – that we may not have the kind of future work force we need in order to stay competitive for jobs that may come our way.”

The chamber would advocate for additional state funding for two educational areas – pre-kindergarten and post-kindergarten, Rosenbury said.

“This is not a great year to be advocating for additional funding from the state,” Rosenbury said. “What we’re doing is more deep fertilizing work as opposed to harvesting work.”

Even with additional funding, Rosenbury said, benefits of early-childhood education improvements aren’t likely to be seen for 20 years.

Annie Busch, local early education advocate and former Springfield-Greene County Library District director, said her experience on the city’s homeless task force showed her the negative impact experienced by poor children without access to early-childhood education.

Even if people don’t have strong emotional feelings about the need for early childhood education, there are plenty of economic and financial advantages, Busch said. In a post-baby boomer economy, younger generations will have to drive the economy. They will need to have high technology skills, and gaining those skills starts early, she added.[[In-content Ad]]

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