Invest in Kids; Our View; Nixon, Keaveny Should Keep Pushing Early Childhood Education; OPINION

Article excerpt

If you could just do one thing to improve public schools, what would it be?

We put that question to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last year. He didnt hesitate.

Early childhood education, he said.

Unfortunately, too many states, including Missouri, dont do enough to help prepare children to learn before they enter kindergarten.

At least 40 states cut funding to early childhood programs last year, Mr. Duncan told us.

This is a step backward, and it goes against all of the academic evidence on the subject. Study after study has shown that spending money on early childhood education is one of the best investments a parent or a state can make.

The best-known such study was done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. It focused on early childhood education as an economic development tool. The authors compared investment in early childhood education with other economic development tools. They found a much larger return on investment, about $8 for every $1 invested, than any other form of state spending or tax credit.

Other studies show improved learning, reduced crime, and savings in future corrections and mental health budgets.

Early childhood education is the best investment we can make, Mr. Duncan said.

Thats why its so heartening that Gov. Jay Nixon announced plans recently to make early childhood education a priority in his second term. Shortly after his inauguration, Mr. Nixon met with education officials, including Kelvin Adams, the superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools, to discuss strategies for improving early childhood education in Missouri.

Over the past few years, the St. Louis district has significantly increased its investment in early childhood education. Its a winning strategy that Mr. …