GUEST COMMENTARY: How can we not afford early childhood education?

2013-06-20T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: How can we not afford early childhood education?By Carlyle Edwards nwitimes.com
June 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Two recent pieces of legislation in the Indiana General Assembly can and will have a profound impact on education in Indiana.

The first, which passed, creates the scenario where we can proudly hang new Welcome to Indiana signs which can say, “Welcome to Indiana, where you need more training in your field to become a plumber, an electrician, a union carpenter, a medical assistant or even a corporate business manager, etc., than you need to become a teacher or an administrator of our future, our students!”

The second piece passed the House but failed in the Senate because of questions like, “How can we afford this past the model/trial stage?” This was in regard to establishing evidence-based early childhood/pre-kindergarten education programs.

Studies show that when children succeed, (especially pre-K through Grades 3-4) this significantly increases their chances of not only graduating from high school but also continuing on to productive careers via college or other avenues. Studies also show that other entities, including the criminal justice, welfare, and health care segments use statistics gathered from third- and fourth-grade performance to determine needs 15 to 20 years later.

Each student who does not graduate from high school costs the government an estimated $240,000 in lost tax revenue over a lifetime (40-year career). This comes out to $6,000 per year. This does not include increased costs of welfare, health care and criminal justice.

Let’s say each year there are 100,000 high school seniors statewide and 15 percent do not graduate (based on the 85 percent graduation rate in 2010). Multiply $6,000 x 15,000, which equals $90 million. Next year, double that to $180 million. The third year that goes to $270 million.

Maybe the real question should have been: How can we not afford to pay for early childhood, pre-K education?

Carlyle Edwards, of East Chicago, is executive director of the Northwest Indiana Parent Community Academy. The opinions are the writer's.

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