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Why Early Education Matters

There are more than 141,000 children under the age of five living in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan region. Most of these children will participate in some form of early childhood program prior to school entry. Area families rely on early childhood education programs to allow them to participate in the labor force and to help prepare their children to enter school ready to succeed. Many parents also benefit from parent education and support programs that support their role as their child's first and most important teacher.

Decades of research show that for every dollar we invest in early childhood programs provides a substantial return on investment. U.S. Federal Reserve Bank research found that early learning programs could generate a 16% public rate of return. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke cites the "high returns that early childhood programs can pay."

Greater Kansas City stands to reap other benefits from investing in early childhood programs, including:

  • Improve K-12. Studies show that high-quality early childhood programs are the best way to support improved academic outcomes in the K-12 system. Children who participate in early childhood education programs are far more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn, read at grade level by third grade, and graduate from high school or even college.
  • Brain Development. 90 percent of children's brain development occurs before age five, but kindergarten starts after a child turns five. By making high-quality early childhood education available to more children, we can help them during the most crucial period in their development.
  • Skilled workforce. Studies show that only 27 percent of at-risk children will grow up to secure a skilled job, which not only puts that child in jeopardy of living in poverty as an adult, but also puts the state in jeopardy of not having the skilled workforce we need to attract and retain higher paying jobs.
  • Safer neighborhoods. The best way to reduce crime is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Research has shown that at-risk children who had not participated in a quality early childhood program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime before their 18th birthday.
  • Strong military. Right now, 75 percent young men and women (ages 17 to 24) are ineligible to serve in the military because they either haven't graduated from high school, have a criminal record, or are physically unfit. These are the same young people we depend on to serve in times of need and ultimately protect our nation. When it comes to strengthening our Armed Forces, retired military leaders from across the country point to investments in early childhood programs as a critical investment in our future military.

Making the Right Investment:

Given the importance of the earliest years of life and the high return on investment for quality early learning programs that result in lifelong gains, one would assume public financing would be focused on these pivotal earliest years of life for young children. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While 85% of the core structure of the brain develops in the first four years of life, only 4% of public investments in children occur during these years. Just as families and businesses must make tough choices as to how best invest their money, societies and governments must also make smart choices to invest public funding in ways that will provide the most public good. What can
you do?

  • Spread the word – Invite a community speaker to your professional, civic or social group.
  • Give – of yourself. Volunteer as a reader or tutor in a local child care center, library story time or family literacy program. Call United Way's 2-1-1 for volunteer opportunities.
  • Make the case – Help us educate policymakers about what's at stake as they make tough budget decisions. Visit, call or write your local civic representatives and state legislators and tell them how early childhood education is a good investment for the future of our Bi-State community.

"The best way to improve the American workforce in the 21st century is to invest in early childhood education, to ensure that even the most disadvantaged children have the opportunity to succeed alongside their more advantaged peers"

– James Heckman (Nobel Laureate in Economics)


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Bedtime should follow a schedule. For example, bath, teeth brushing, bedtime story, nightlight, kiss good night and sleep. A consistent schedule helps children learn to go to sleep by themselves.


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