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Early Childhood Education

High quality early childhood education represents one of the best investments our country can make. NEA believes it's a common sense investment we can't afford to pass up.

Research shows that providing a high quality education for children before they turn five yields significant long-term benefits.

One well-known study, the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project, found that individuals who were enrolled in a quality preschool program ultimately earned up to $2,000 more per month than those who were not. Young people who were in preschool programs are more likely to graduate from high school, to own homes, and have longer marriages.

Other studies, like the Abecedarian Project, show similar results. Children in quality preschool programs are less likely to repeat grades, need special education, or get into future trouble with the law.

Early childhood education makes good economic sense, as well. In Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return, a high-ranking Federal Reserve Bank official pegs its return on investment at 12 percent, after inflation.

NEA recommends, among other things:

  • Free, publicly funded, quality kindergarten programs in all states.
  • Mandatory full-day kindergarten. Just 14 states require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten.   
  • Optional free, publicly funded, quality "universal" pre-kindergarten programs for all three- and four-year-old children whose parents choose to enroll them. Three states are moving toward such a program - Georgia, New York and Oklahoma.    
  • Federal funds to make pre-kindergarten programs available for all three- and four-year-old children from disadvantaged families. State and local governments should provide the additional funds necessary to make pre-kindergarten available for all three- and four-year old children.    
  • Dedicated funding for early childhood education. Public schools should be the primary provider of pre-kindergarten programs, and additional funding must be allocated to finance them in the same manner as K-12 schools.    

Related Content

Billions at Stake in the Push for PreK - State and federal government investment in quality prekindergarten programs could reap billions of dollars in benefits.

States Embracing PreK & Full-Day K Programs - Responding to the research, policy and political leaders in more and more states are investing in early childhood education.

New Mexico PreK Initiative - The initiative is paying off for its four-year-old participants in greater improvement in early language, literacy, and math development.

Taking Steps Toward PK-3 Success (pdfsmall.gif PDF, 1.66 MB, 16pp) This publication identifies strategies to help improve teaching and learning environments at the PK-3 levels.

Full-Day Kindergarten: An Advocacy Guide (pdfsmall.gif  PDF, 957 KB, 52pp) - The guide offers Association leaders and staff and other early childhood education advocates tools, resources, and research that will help them in securing full-day kindergarten programs in their states.

NEA Teams Up to Promote the K in K-12 - NEA is teaming up with five other leading national education organizations to promote the importance of kindergarten and to highlight their organizations' work to influence policy and promote best practices within kindergarten classrooms.