More than just the right thing to do

Most everybody agrees we should invest more resources in early learning because it’s the right thing to do for children. But, in this day and age, it’s difficult to change social, cultural, and political priorities simply on that principle alone. It’s not just right to make early learning a much higher and important priority in Alaska…it’s smart.

Surely, there are better reasons to invest in early learning than children’s future in the work force. Shouldn’t we be investing more in early childhood simply because it’s the right thing to do for children?

Indeed, we should. But in this day and age, it appears you can’t change social, cultural, and political priorities simply on the basis of what’s good for children.

Speaking at the recent Business Leader Summit on Early Childhood Investment, UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer pointed out that for more than 20 years – at least since the mid-1980s – elected officials and others have pushed, with little success, to commit more and better resources to early childhood. “Because it’s the right thing to do” has simply not been enough to foster change.

Now, there’s heavier ammunition at hand. Economist James Heckman, winner of the Nobel Prize for his work in this field, says investing in early development of human potential is the smartest economic investment there is. According to Heckman, investing in early childhood yields far higher returns than any other economic development effort.

Starting early is key. Research into the developing brain has proven that the experiences of early childhood have a profound impact on who and what a child will become. Investing more and better resources into early childhood isn’t just the right thing to do for children. It’s also the smartest thing to do for the future health and vitality of our communities, our state, and our nation.

To help move the cause, we are asking business leaders to convey these key messages to their colleagues, to elected officials, and opinion leaders:

  • Early learning is a top business priority for me and my company
  • What we do to support early learning will decide Alaska’s prosperity
  • The return on investment in early childhood is demonstrably higher than other economic development efforts
  • It’s time to change how we – in the public and private sectors – think about early childhood.



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