Invest in early learning
Because the foundation for all of life’s successes -- whether academic, social, or emotional -- is laid in the first five years of life, it is critically important to invest in early learning. This is especially true for children from low income homes, who often do not have access to high quality early learning programs. As early as kindergarten, underprivileged children can be as much as 1.5 years behind the average child and it is very difficult for them to catch up. High quality early care and education is an act of social and educational justice.
The early learning workforce is largely female, very diverse, and often paid low wages. Because there is also a gap to access high quality professional development and college degrees, much of this workforce is poor. In a high-quality early learning preschool program, the teachers are well educated and fairly compensated. The quality of early care and education is almost entirely dependent on the teacher in the classroom.
Developing social and emotional skills through high quality early learning is strongly linked to civic engagement in adults. The role of government is to subsidize access to high quality early learning. Supporting early care and education directly supports our society and our economy. When children reach their fullest potential, they have higher rates of graduation and jobs. The ultimate act of Homeland Security is to invest in our very youngest learners.
Gail Joseph is the Founding Executive Director of Cultivate Learning at the University of Washington College of Education as well as the Bezos Family Foundation Distinguished Professor in Early Learning.
She teaches courses, advises students, provides service, and conducts research on topics related to early learning and equity, child care quality, teacher preparation, early childhood mental health, and school readiness. Gail is also the 2018 recipient of the David R. Thorud Leadership Award at the University of Washington.