Hope Street Group Recommends Universal Preschool

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

In its most recent policy paper, “Investing in America’s Future: Harvesting the Returns of Quality Preschool,” Hope Street Group (HSG), a policy exchange made up of business, political, and civic leaders focusing on economic opportunity and prosperity, recommends establishing a federal fund to expand preschool access to the entire nation’s 3- and 4-year-old children. Currently, 2.8 million 3- and 4-year-olds are in programs that do not adequately prepare them for kindergarten, and an additional 3.2 million do not have access to preschool at all.
The evidence clearly shows that high-quality preschool delivers benefits enabling children to do better in school and throughout their lives. Dr. Rahil Briggs, a licensed bilingual psychologist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and the Director of the Healthy Steps for Young Children program at Montefiore says, “Through developmental psychology and neuroscience research findings of the last two decades, we have learned that the first few years of development, specifically from birth to the age of five, are absolutely critical for success later in life.” As the foundations for successful cognitive and social emotional development are cemented during this initial stage, children receiving high-quality early childhood education have a significant advantage over their peers throughout their school careers because, as Dr. Briggs points out, “if you don’t enter kindergarten ready to learn, it’s hard to catch up.”

Quality early childhood education programs are not just good for kids, but deliver real benefits to society as a whole. Dr. Briggs believes early childhood education programs could “free up parents to pursue other activities, such as work, education, or self-care,” which could translate into higher productivity and domestic spending. Others benefits outlined in the HSG policy paper include better academic performance, higher lifetime earnings and tax contributions, and a lower reliance on the social welfare or criminal justice systems. In fact, a recent study by The Economic Policy Institute reported in May 2007 that such programs generate economic returns of 10-16% per year – about double what the stock market delivers. “These findings are something we should be excited about when you look at what it costs to invest today in comparison to the returns tomorrow,” says Tyler Nottberg, Chairman and CEO of US Engineering Company. “As business leaders, we have the luxury – unlike politicians – of looking beyond the next election cycle.”THE TIME HAS COMEVoters seem to be on board. A national poll completed in 2007 by Peter D. Hart shows strong bipartisan support for preschool programs among a diverse audience. In fact, half of all voters say they would be more likely to support a political candidate that supports preschool education; two-thirds of voters say government should fund universal, voluntary preschool; and three-fourths of people surveyed support federal funding to increase universal, accessible preschool programs. Regardless of polls, Nottberg points out that “we have a responsibility to make sure people are given an equal opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to succeed. This creates a level playing field for people to achieve later on.”Hope Street Group (HSG) is a movement of business, political, and civic leaders dedicated to transforming the American Dream into the American Reality. HSG Policy Papers are written by volunteers supported by HSG staff. Papers typically synthesize positions from think tanks of the left and right, and are intended to be user-friendly tools for busy decision-makers to more easily promote opportunity and prosperity. For more information or to schedule an interview, you may contact: lonny@hopestreetgroup.orgCONTRIBUTORS

In addition to HSG board and staff, the following members of the Early Childhood Education Policy Team are available for interviews:

Karen Donahue Alden spent fifteen years in senior executive positions in businesses ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. Today she writes about policy issues and provides marketing and strategy consulting services to non-profit organizations.

Dr. Rahil Briggs is a licensed bilingual psychologist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Division of General Pediatrics, and is the Director of the Healthy Steps for Young Children program at Montefiore. Dr. Briggs is also on the faculty at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, and is a Staff Psychologist at the Center for Babies, Toddlers and Families, a division of the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Jeff Camp chairs the Full Circle Education Fund, a Bay Area volunteer organization that forms skilled project teams to help organizations turn their ideas into results for children. Camp also chairs the Advisory Committee of the Alt Comp Dialogue, a Full Circle Fund-sponsored project to promote local labor-management discussion of how to use alternative compensation approaches to increase schools’ effectiveness in educating children. He also serves on the California Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence.

Dmitri Mehlhorn is Managing Director of Business Development at Gerson Lehrman Group, and is responsible for business development, strategy, and sales to new markets. His background has included practicing US and European antitrust law and serving as the Director of Strategy and Chief of Staff at a preeminent global law firm, O’Melveny and Myers.

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