Early Childhood

Project Launches 10-Year Initiative to Link Early Education, Economy

By Rhea R. Borja — March 13, 2007 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A group of business leaders, economists, and philanthropists last week formally unveiled a 10-year project to make early education a top U.S. economic priority.

Concerns over global competition, the need for an innovative and better-trained workforce, and the growing national debt spurred the development of the Partnership for America’s Economic Success, said Robert Dugger, the chairman of the project’s advisory board. He is one of the project’s 12 funders and the managing director of Tudor Investment Corp., a Greenwich, Conn.-based financial-services company.

Educating children in their earliest years is not only a moral imperative, he said, but also a sound economic investment that will yield a healthy rate of return. “You want to grow the economy?” he said. “Invest in kids.”

The $3.1 million project is the latest signal of corporate America’s increasing interest and involvement in young children’s education, business leaders said at the Committee for Economic Development’s annual conference on early education, held here on March 7 at the National Press Club. It was the third such conference sponsored by the CED, a business-led public-policy group based in Washington, and Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group. Both are funders of the new partnership.

Growing Interest

While representatives of five corporations attended the first conference, the number at the second conference tripled, and more than doubled this year to 35. In addition, participation in the partnership already has grown since its inception last year from a handful of corporate and philanthropic leaders to about 100, and its leaders hope to increase that number to 1,000 businesses by early 2008.

Read more about why the project was created and other information from the Partnership for America’s Economic Success. The partnership also has posted the working paper in which the project was envisioned.

The project has a three-phase strategy: research, coalition-building, and communication. The partnership is now in a two-year research phase, and is commissioning about 15 studies to find out the economic benefits of early education, the scope and size of the youth-capital sector, policy options for public and private financing, and information for building a communications campaign.

The Washington-based Pew Charitable Trusts manages and helps fund the Partnership for America’s Economic Success. The project’s other sponsors include the Omaha, Neb.-based Buffett Early Childhood Fund and the New York City-based educational publisher Scholastic Inc.

Mr. Dugger said he envisions the partnership as a change agent for early education, much as MoveOn.org, the Web-based liberal grassroots-advocacy and political-action group, has been for state and national politics.

“This is not a bunch of Head Start teachers trying to get more federal funding,” he said. “This is an entire economic sector.”

Providing a sound and academically rigorous education to the nation’s youngest children is among the most effective ways to ensure they become productive workers and citizens in adulthood, said conference presenters. Research shows that the human brain develops fastest up to age 5, they noted.

‘Harsh Truth’

“Destiny is determined way earlier than we had earlier believed,” said Kenneth A. Burdick, the chief executive officer of Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealthcare. “There’s a harsh, undeniable truth here. [It’s determined] way before kindergarten. If kids start behind, they continue behind, and they stay behind.”

Yet relatively little state and federal education funding flows to early education, said C. Eugene Steuerle, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Urban Institute, in presenting preliminary findings from a report commissioned by the partnership.

A Research Agenda

The Partnership for America’s Success has five goals for its initial, two-year evidence-gathering phase. The project is commissioning about 15 reports on these topics:

1) Early-childhood development strategies with proven rates of return

2) The macroeconomic impact of early-childhood investments for a state or nation

3) Policy options for financing investments in early childhood

4) The size and scope of economic sectors that help develop human capital and their potential to become early-education advocates

5) Communication strategies to change public policy on early-childhood education

Source: Partnership for America’s Economic Success

“Kids in the budget are leftovers,” he said. “They get what’s left over from [other] people.”

Some corporations and foundations already are working to improve access to early education, focusing on low-income families. PNC Financial Services, for example, is committing $100 million over 10 years to early-education initiatives through demonstration grants, communication campaigns, and advocacy.

Educare, a network of nonprofit early-education and child-care centers in Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Omaha, Seattle, and Tulsa, was created with donations from foundations such as the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, and the Chicago-based Ounce of Prevention Fund. The network also has received funding from George Kaiser, the president and chief executive officer of the Tulsa, Okla.-based Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. Mr. Kaiser’s family foundation also pays for an endowed professorship in early education at the University of Oklahoma’s college of education.

And in Minnesota, the foundation of the Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc., a food and agricultural-services company, and the Greater Twin Cities United Way pledged $2.5 million to create the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, a public-private partnership to help deliver early education to more than 10,500 children statewide.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2007 edition of Education Week as Project Launches 10-Year Initiative To Link Early Education, Economy

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Early Childhood Q&A An Investment in Early-Childhood Education Is Paying Off Big
Richard Tomko believes that expanding the early education pipeline buffers schools against enrollment loss and academic struggles.
2 min read
Dr. Richard Tomko, Superintendent of Belleville Public Schools in Belleville, N.J., visits science teacher Paul Aiello’s Medical Academy Field Experience class on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. The Medical Academy’s class uses Anatamoge tables, an anatomy visualization system that allows students to garner a deeper, comprehensive understanding of the human body and medical tools to prepare them for careers in the medical field.
Richard Tomko, superintendent of Belleville Public Schools in Belleville, N.J., has expanded academic programs while restoring trust in the school system.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Early Childhood Opinion What K-12 Can Learn from Pre-K
Early-childhood education has valuable lessons to share with K-12.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Early Childhood Which States Offer Universal Pre-K? It's More Complicated Than You Might Think
Universal pre-K is growing in popularity. Here are the states that have already established universal preschool programs or policies.
2 min read
Early Childhood Support for Universal Pre-K Grows as More States Jump on Board
New Mexico became the latest state to approve investments in pre-K programs.
5 min read
A Pre-K student plays with the class guinea pig at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Aug. 17, 2021. Oklahoma is one of a handful of states offering universal pre-k to all students.
A prekindergarten student plays with the class guinea pig at Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City, Okla., in 2021. Oklahoma is one of a handful of states offering universal pre-K.
Sue Ogrocki/AP