Dr. Phillip Rozeman recently wrote a compelling piece, Bipartisanship Exists in Louisiana, with which I fully agree. I want to reiterate why investing in quality early care and education for young children is so important for our state. As a non-profit executive working in the human service sector I am attuned to the question: What is the return on investment? Our resources are limited and valuable and there are many competing needs in our communities throughout the state so we have to maximize every dollar spent.
Investing in early care and education yields a superb return on investment. Nobel-prize winning economist James Heckman finds that investing in early care and education is “the most efficient use” of public resources; the return on investment can reach up to 13% every year. Louisiana needs to make more of these types of investments that have a far-reaching and long-lasting impact on children, the economy, parents, and businesses.
Ninety percent of brain development takes place during the first four years of a child’s life. The brain is like a house and so the foundation of a child’s brain is being built from birth through age four. Like a house, a weak foundation will remain weak no matter what is built on top and while it is possible to go back and fix a weak foundation, it is an extremely difficult and expensive undertaking.
Furthermore, we also know that children who receive high-quality early care and education experience long-term improved outcomes in education, health, and social behaviors and the investment leads to community benefits including reduced crime and more productive employees.
Today, local communities in Louisiana have an opportunity for their investments in children to be maximized through Louisiana’s Early Childhood Trust Fund. During the 2019 legislative session, Louisiana policymakers expanded the trust fund so that every dollar invested by a local community can be matched by the state per fund availability.
Business groups around the state are advocating for the state to invest more money toward this effort in this year’s budget. Several groups including: The Committee of 100 for Economic Development, Inc., Louisiana Association of United Ways, United Way of Northwest Louisiana, Louisiana Chapter-American Academy for Pediatrics, Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, and the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children are requesting policymakers to increase investment in early care and education to $86 million.
It is clear that this investment is a smart one. I encourage our local leaders to rise to the challenge regardless of political affiliation, come together, and fund this need.
Dr. Bruce Willson, CFRE
President & CEO
United Way of Northwest Louisiana