The following op-ed was printed in today’s News and Observer.
RALEIGH – Why are we outsourcing our economic recovery? A news story last week reported that “Apple could receive as much as $46 million in tax breaks over a decade for spending $1 billion on a computer data center in the state.”
At the same time, we have a North Carolina industry that in 2007 created 47,000 jobs and generated $1.77 billion in revenue — more than the Panthers, Hurricanes, Bobcats and all spectator sports combined.
That industry, the state’s early childhood programs, is a vital part of our economy.
But rather than investing in these programs, the General Assembly is cutting the amounts the state will pay to help working families afford early childhood care and increasing licensing fees. The effect will be to decimate the programs that help them provide the highest quality care to children.
Perhaps our state policymakers need to be reminded that early childhood investments are a win-win. They are essential for our children and families to thrive. Our economy cannot recover without them nor could it prosper in the future.
Economists get it. Rob Grunewald and Art Rolnick from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank call investments in early childhood drivers of economic development.
North Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce, Keith Crisco gets it. “Early education is economic development. It is the best kind,” Crisco told an audience of some 300 early education leaders, legislators, school superintendents and public officials from across the state in February.
Voters get it. According to Public Policy Polling’s newest survey: “North Carolina voters think funding for early childhood education should continue to be a top priority for state funding, even in a difficult budget year.” Only 21 percent of voters in the state think that early childhood education should be cut during tough economic times.
Now we need our policymakers to get it.
Jack Shonkoff, a noted pediatrician and founding director of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, says “When we fail to provide children with what they need to build a strong foundation for healthy and productive lives, we put our future prosperity and security at risk.”
That foundation is being compromised. The number of young children is growing each year. Yet the services to ensure their healthy development and growth are being cut each year. And if the state House of Representatives’ initial budget were to be enacted, it will take decades just to get back to where we are today.