The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 30, 2008

Study: Lack of early education costly

Area leaders already working to prepare students for school

MANKATO — Leaders in the Mankato community didn’t need another study to convince them of the benefits of investing in early childhood education.

From community-wide kindergarten readiness programs to raising awareness for early childhood screenings, it’s clear they’ve already received the message.

“Early childhood education is no longer something extra for our community,” said Laura Bowman, president of Greater Mankato Area United Way. “It is absolutely the essential piece of our future workforce.”

There is no recent shortage of research on the issue of early childhood education. And while the latest addition encourages the efforts already underway in the Mankato area, it also underscores the need for further evaluation.

A study released Monday by St. Paul-based Wilder Research reported that the state’s K-12 system loses $113 million annually due to children not being prepared for kindergarten. That figure reflects the additional financial burden of remediating failing students as well as the loss of state funding when students drop out of school.

But the study concluded that schools cannot fund early childhood education alone.

Citing previous research — including Art Rolnick’s well-known study as research director of the Federal Reserve Bank, which documents a $16 return for every $1 spent before age 3 through savings on prisons, welfare and special education — the Wilder study posited that the benefits of early childhood investments extend well beyond schools.

In addition, the study reported that an effective two-year early education program for 3-year-olds would cost $377 million — or more than three times the potential $113 million savings for schools.

For that reason, said Suzanne Spellacy, Taylor Corporation vice president, communities and government agencies need to take a fresh look at how to fund early childhood education.

“We really feel strongly this is an economic development issue for the region and state,” Spellacy said. “That means more investment, but also smarter investment.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News