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Don't Cut Programs

Published Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Published in The Miami Herald

Lawmakers across the country face two major challenges: managing shrinking budgets and supporting policies that will strengthen America's workforce and get our economy growing again.

Investing in early childhood education is a fiscally responsible way to reduce deficits and produce big gains for children and taxpayers. That's why it's time we talk about protecting our current investments and, yes, increasing funding in early childhood education.

Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman recommends investment in early education as being among the most cost-efficient approaches to increasing education, health and economic outcomes and lowering the costs of remediation and social dependence. Quality early learning boosts academic achievement and reduces costs associated with grade retention and remediation services while benefiting families and society.

During the congressional session in late December, lawmakers passed a continuing budget resolution that jeopardizes Head Start, Early Head Start and child care for 300,000 children. Florida alone risks losing 24,000 slots, behind Texas at 49,000 and California at 34,000.

These federal programs provide quality early childhood education for 2.5 million families. These programs build the cognitive and character skills for success in school, college, career and life.

We must urge Congress and President Obama to right that situation in the 2011 federal budget. And here in Florida, where 46 percent of children are low income, let's remind our lawmakers that the budget decisions they make will determine whether tens of thousands of children get the cost-efficient early childhood education they need to succeed. We also need to keep struggling, low-income parents working during these tough economic times.

Maria A. Alonso
Chair, The Children's Trust

Octavio A. Verdeja, Jr.
Chair, Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe

Sheldon T. Anderson
Chair, United Way of Miami-Dade