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C.E.D. Seeks $11.5 Billion For Reforms

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An effective national program of early intervention for children at risk of school failure would require an $11.5-billion investment over the next five years, according to Owen B. Butler, retired chairman of the Procter and Gamble Company and a leading business spokesman on the need for education reform.

Speaking last week in New York City at the annual meeting of the Committee for Economic Development, Mr. Butler for the first time outlined the costs of implementing the recommendations in the CED's widely cited report, "Children in Need: Investment Strategies for the Educationally Disadvantaged.''

Mr. Butler was chairman of the panel that produced the report. Last week, he was elected chairman of the CED's board of trustees.

"We can't afford not to undertake this enterprise,'' Mr. Butler said last week of the report's proposals for early intervention. "What we spend to prevent lifetime failure is not an expense, it's a sound investment.''

Prenatal and Child Care

The five-year investment outlined by Mr. Butler would include three parts:

  • $700 million to provide adequate prenatal care to the estimated 850,000 pregnant women who do not have health insurance.
  • $6.6 billion for full-day and half-day voluntary day care for infants and toddlers of families in poverty. The programs envisioned would provide enrichment for the children, provide parenting education, and allow parents to seek employment outside the home.
  • $6.6 billion for high-quality full-day preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds.

The $13.8-billion pricetag for the whole package would be partially offset by $2.35 billion in current federal expenditures on Head Start, child care, and Chapter 1 funds allocated to preschool education.

The $11.5 billion in new funding should be drawn from a variety of sources, Mr. Butler said, including federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector.

The new programs should be phased in over five years, he said, with a $2-to-$3-billion allocation the first year.

"Even if we had an Administration able and willing to write the check tomorrow, we would still lack the trained personnel and physical facilities to enroll every eligible child and parent,'' he said.

Strong Warning

Although the nation cannot expect a rapid payoff from its investment in early intervention, Mr. Butler cautioned, action on the program cannot be delayed.

"Every year we delay, we condemn almost one million more children to lives of despair and our nation to almost certain decline,'' he said.

Mr. Butler also advised Secretary of Education William J. Bennett not to "lose patience.'' Mr. Bennett issued a generally negative critique of the pace of school reform last month on the fifth anniversary of the release of the department's landmark report, A Nation at Risk.

"The problem wasn't created in five years, and we can't expect to solve it in five years,'' Mr. Butler said. --WS

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