FALLBROOK – Paul and Diane Garrett, founders of The BetterWorld Trust, quickly became convinced of the profound importance of more adequately supporting early childhood education following an opportunity to hear JB Pritzker, founder of the JB and MK Pritzker Foundation, and Nobel prize winning economist Dr. James Heckman speak at an event in San Diego in 2015.
Both JB Pritzker and Dr. Heckman made very convincing arguments about the critical importance and long term value to society at large, of increasing public and private investments in early childhood education.
Immediately following their attendance at the Pritzker/Heckman lecture, the Garretts made a decision to refocus the majority of their philanthropic resources, budgeted for educational purposes, to more intentionally support early childhood education efforts in this region.
Dr. Heckman’s research has shown that “investment in high-quality early childhood programs for at-risk children from birth to age 5 delivers a 13 percent return on investment through better education, health, social and economic outcomes, increased productivity and the reduced need for social spending. Investing in quality early childhood programs is a cost-efficient strategy for reducing deficits, improving K-12 achievement, creating jobs, and promoting economic growth.” (Source: Heckman (2008) www.heckmanequation.org).
To that end, The BetterWorld Trust distributed a request for proposal (RFP) the “Fallbrook Early Childhood Education Initiative” for the purpose of undertaking in-depth research regarding the early childhood education (ECE) landscape in Fallbrook. They selected Fallbrook for a few reasons.
First, the Garretts live in Fallbrook. Second, Fallbrook is unique in its demography with a large population of migrant farm workers and a significant number of military families, both groups of which have young children who could benefit from access to improved and available ECE programs. Third, Fallbrook is home to a sizeable number of affordable housing units which house young families, also with the potential for needed ECE resources.
BetterWorld Trust ended up with a good response to the RFP and had several excellent proposals. In the end, they chose a proposal that was collaboratively submitted by a team of academic researchers from the School of Education at UCSD and a San Diego consulting group called N.P. Strategies.
The research will take place between August and November with the final results anticipated during the first week of November. The research data and recommendations from the research team will be utilized by the Garretts to guide their decisions on how to best support the most impactful ECE efforts in Fallbrook and the surrounding communities.
The UCSD/NP Strategies research team will conduct basic demographic and content specific research on the existing status of early childhood education resources and services currently available within the Fallbrook community. The research will include information about the number of 0-5 year-old children who live in the area and attend early childhood programs, including those who are on waiting lists.
The research team will also provide an analysis of the data upon which The BetterWorld Trust can formulate actions to take in order to strengthen and enhance the number of available quality preschool seats in the Fallbrook area.
Professor Heckman found that early development of effective social skills greatly influences the successful development of the IQ and ultimately, personal and social productivity. He also found that early nurturing, learning experiences and physical healthcare from ages zero to five greatly impact success or failure in society.
The most economically efficient time to develop skills and social abilities is in the very early years when developmental support is most effective. Today’s challenges are real – record rates of high school dropouts, a lack of college graduates, increasing rates of obesity and chronic diseases, rising crime and a growing underclass.
Professor Heckman’s work proves that prevention through early childhood development is more life- and cost-effective than remediation. It’s time to invest in upstream solutions for future generations while we continue to address today’s problems.
The Heckman Curve was created by Dr. James Heckman, Nobel Laureate economist at the University of Chicago. Dr. Heckman examined and analyzed hundreds of evaluations of services for children and young adults, with a special focus on return on investment.
As indicated in the curve, he found that returns on investments in the earliest years are far higher than those for older children and young adults. This is generally due to the immense benefits and effectiveness of preventing problems before they arise, rather than trying to treat them later.
The Education Synergy Alliance collected data about public investments in early education, birth to school age. We found that on a per capita basis, the investments in youngest children are miniscule relative to later investments – exactly the opposite of what the Heckman Curve says would produce the greatest bang for our buck.
Call To Action:
Use the Heckman Equation to create greater prosperity. Accept that there is a range of skills that must be fostered in individuals in order for them to be productive members of the workforce and society. Understand that knowledge, social skills and health acquired very early in life will lead to greater success later in life. Demand that support for children spans all agencies.
The government needs to integrate policies, break down barriers across agencies and support programs that show measurable results in improving economic and social success. Insist on developing the whole child, from birth to school, college and career. Too much emphasis has been placed on developing and measuring only cognitive skills, when research clearly shows that social abilities are the catalyst for achievement in school and productivity in the workplace.
It is critical that the foundation of cognitive skills and social abilities is developed from birth to age five and that social abilities are taught and reinforced throughout formal schooling and job training.
Lead the change. America doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to effective early childhood development. Professor Heckman’s analysis of economic return is based on two long running pilot programs in the United States, Perry Preschool and Abecedarian.
Similar programs, such as Early Head Start and Educare, demonstrate many of the principles Professor Heckman has identified as necessary for an effective investment in early childhood education for disadvantaged children.