SESP Leaders Urge Investment in Early Childhood Education

SESP Leaders Urge Investment in Early Childhood Education

early childhood education

More than 500 leading researchers from across the nation released an open letter recently urging policy makers to increase investment in high-quality early childhood education. The letter includes signatures by Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy dean Penelope Peterson and faculty members Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Terri Sabol and Sandra Waxman.

“This letter urges policymakers to act on the compelling scientific evidence regarding the benefits of early childhood education,” says Sabol, a SESP assistant professor who focuses on early childhood education in her research. “There is now a critical mass of literature on the positive effects of early childhood education on low-income children’s outcomes. The time is ripe for investing in and expanding access to high-quality early childhood education programs.”

The letter summarizes evidence from research in psychology, education, human development and economics showing the returns of investment in high-quality early childhood education. Particularly for under-resourced children, investment in the early years leads to positive social and economic outcomes.

According to the letter, research findings consistently substantiate these key points:

  • Quality early childhood education can reduce the achievement gap
  • Access to quality early childhood education is essential.
  • Quality programs develop the whole child programs.
  • Quality programs include health and home.
  • Quality programs can be brought to scale.
  • Quality programs produce quality life outcomes.
  • Quality early childhood education benefits children from diverse family backgrounds and circumstances.
  • Investing in quality early childhood education pays off.

“An extensive body of research in education, developmental psychology, neuroscience, medicine and economics shows that quality early childhood education programs produce better education, health, economic and social outcomes for children, families, and the nation. As researchers, we urge policymakers to make decisions based on the full body of scientific knowledge about early education and child development,” the letter maintains.

The letter was released in connection with the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and the First Five Years Fund (FFYF). Before endorsement by nearly 500 researchers, the letter began with 61 founding signatories, including James Heckman, Nobel laureate in economics, and respected scholars in education and early childhood development.

NIEER and FFYF stress the importance of federal action, not just action by states. Their viewpoint is that federal investment is crucial to programs including Head Start, child care and other program having the funds necessary to provide the high-quality services that have been substantiated by early learning research.

The impact of the letter may be tested soon. Currently Congress is considering a bill to provide childcare funding to states.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 12/23/14