The Tennessee economy is dependent on the future of early childhood education. That's the message from business and education leaders this week to lawmakers during Children's Advocacy Days in Nashville.
The importance of early childhood education is a top priority for child advocates as they work to encourage lawmakers to expand the availability of pre-k programs to Tennessee families during Children's Advocacy Days in Nashville. While data support the role that early education pays in the lives of individual children, it comes down to dollars and cents for people such as Bill Millet with Scope View Strategic Advantage, a firm that works with companies looking to find a qualified workforce.
"There are some companies that go overseas because it's cheaper over there, but there are some major Fortune 200 companies that just can't find the talent here," Millett said. "They are patriots. They want us to up our game in terms of workforce development [which they believe] begins in the earliest months of life."
According to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, for every dollar spent on pre-k education, there are returns of anywhere between four and 16 dollars to the state's economy. The First Five Years Fund estimates children who receive early education are 33-percent more likely to be employed and earn a higher average salary and 70-percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime before the age of 18.
Tennessee currently provides free pre-k to families who live at 185-percent of the federal poverty rate, but doesn't have the funding the funding for all eligible children. Joyce Bridges with the Tennessee Childcare Resource and Referral Network says there are many more children in need, and helping them would benefit everyone.