Gotham Gazette, 6/8/17 The Smart Path Forward in Early Childhood Education
In April, Mayor de Blasio announced a new initiative aimed at closing the gap in early childhood education, 3-K for All. The rollout, beginning in historically under-resourced communities like Brownsville and the South Bronx, is projected to provide a seat for every three-year-old living in those parts of the city by fall 2018 – some 1,800 kids. This big step on the road to expanding early childhood development programming across the city is a culmination of years of research and advocacy from civic organizations, community leaders, and think tanks.
Our city is and always has been a place of immense opportunities for academic enrichment, personal fulfillment, and prosperity. But for too long, and for too many, those possibilities have remained out of reach. Unfortunately, disparities begin early in life – and often even before birth.
Research has shown that 90 percent of physical brain development occurs in the first three years of life, and cognitive studies demonstrate the lasting impact of sustained investment in infants’ emotional, mental, and social development. There is also strong evidence that children in home visiting and early childhood programs have decreased criminal justice system involvement, teenage pregnancy rates, special education needs, and social safety net service utilization; with increased high school success and college attendance, as well as maternal employment rates and income. Not only can early childhood investments lead to decreased public expenditure on social services — they can actually result in increased tax revenues later in life too.
Our findings, released in February of this year, demonstrate the impact of early life interventions on school readiness, emotional and social development, family health, economic growth, and public safety. The evidence is clear: engaging mothers before they give birth through the most formative years results in positive impacts on children’s lives. But to realize the litany of benefits, increased investment and information sharing is critical.
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