On February 17, 2009 President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). This was in response to the worst economic crisis in the U.S. since the Great Depression. At the time, private employers had cut almost 4 million jobs and trillions in dollars in household wealth had been wiped out.
The Council of Economic Advisors has released its final report to Congress which affirms the investments made through ARRA have had a positive impact on the economy. We not only see the effects of ARRA through the millions of jobs it helped create, but we also see how ARRA has helped in the classroom.
On September 18th, key stakeholders met at Miami-Dade College for an all-day summit to discuss the importance of investing in quality early education for the success of our country’s economic future. The National Summit on Hispanic Early Learning, hosted by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and its President’s Advisory Commission engaged philanthropists, non-profit, business and community leaders, state and local government officials, media experts, researchers and advocacy representatives in a timely conversation on the critical need for raising awareness on and increasing access to high quality early childhood education for the Hispanics community.
The Undersecretary of Education, Martha Kanter, acknowledged in her opening remarks that the success of the nation’s economy coincides with the progress of the Hispanic community, and that in order for Hispanics to contribute to the United States and help us compete in a global economy, they need a comprehensive foundation.
Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority group in the nation, and by 2060 they are expected to account for more than one quarter of the total US population. However, in the current K-12 public school system, Hispanics already account for one in four students.
Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of those children participate in a high-quality preschool program.
The first five years of childhood account for the greatest developmental growth, allowing children to establish the social and cognitive skills necessary for academic success.
Lacking the appropriate educational groundwork, many Hispanics enter their first year of school on average 12-18 months behind their peers. Researcher Steven Barnett, from the National Institute for Early Education Research, discussed the lower enrollment rates in early learning programs and a significant achievement gap among Hispanics, pointing to language barriers and affordability as major contributing factors. He went on to say that when Hispanics participate in preschool programs, they have the largest gains among any other demographic, are less likely to repeat grades and drop out, and more likely to have higher test scores and graduate from both high school and college.
Panelists Gladys Montes, Vice President of the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, and Jeff Schoenberg, advisor for the J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, expressed their concerns with the discourse of early childhood education without effective advocacy and outreach. They discussed the importance of having tangible results to back intuition in order to convince policymakers of the priority of early education.