There is ample evidence that high quality education
at an early age helps break the cycle of poverty and significantly extends social and economic mobility. This is one of the reasons House Democrats included billions of dollars in federal funding for universal kindergarten in the Build Back Better Act.
Sadly, the historic legislative package has stalled since Senator Joe Manchin said he would not vote for. But if we ever have to deal with the embarrassment lack of investment
among our nation’s children, Congress must convince Manchin to support the bill.
The point is that the child care and development elements of the Build Back Better Act actually represent the economic forecasting and fiscal responsibility that will help expand our economy
, lift children out of poverty and fight against economic disparities at the national level. Nobel laureate economist James heckman
has conclusively demonstrated that comprehensive and early child care improves health and social outcomes, in addition to strengthening the economy. Early childhood education helps children secure their own economic future and also offers significant economic benefits to their families.
Programs like the Universal Kindergarten enable more parents to join the workforce and contribute to local economies. The search for the National Center for Women’s Rights
shows that this could be a game-changer for low-income women with less than a university degree, especially black and Latin women, who often start from a more precarious economic position.
Beyond the moral imperatives of supporting American children, there is also a significant return on investment. While vulnerable families are the main beneficiaries in the short term, every dollar invested in early childhood programs can return $ 4 to $ 9 back to the U.S. economy, according to Harvard University Center on Child Development
. These returns benefit local communities
due to the reduction in crime and the increase in tax revenue that comes from more children participating in early childhood programs and obtaining employment when they become adults.
Many Republicans in Congress have made unremitting efforts to present Build Back Better as a “way to socialism
Still, some Southern Republican-led states are joining states like California and New York in expanding early childhood education. Alabama
increased its preschool funding by $ 6 million and Florida
followed suit with an additional $ 10 million in its budget for fiscal year 2020-2021.
Those who are only looking to witness a defeat of President Joe Biden or who fail to see the ethical and economic value of the Build Back Better Act are standing in the way of a valuable opportunity to uplift our country’s most vulnerable populations, to strengthen our economy and invest in the future American workforce. Congress cannot give up on passing the bill because there is still hope. Shortly after swearing to vote against, Manchin and President Biden had a cordial phone call in which the two discussed their re-engagement this year.
The American economic exceptionalism we enjoy today is the reward for generations of wise investments in people through things like public education and the Pell Scholarships that help low-income students get a college education. In this time of truly global competition, it is our turn to show such foresight.