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March 07, 2010

The Millionth Child


Sometimes the enormity of the positive effects of pre-k just boggles the mind. Public pre-k is one of the few government programs that actually brings a return on investment  and the volume of that return, when you consider that some states have supported pre-k since the '80s or '90s, can be astronomical. Take Georgia for instance. The state just became the first state in the nation to reach its millionth child served in its public pre-k program, Bright from the Start. If the return on investment is anywhere close to Karoly and Bigelow's calculations of $2.62 for every $1 invested, or the $2 to $17 returns suggested by Karoly, Kilburn, & Cannon, and you are looking at savings that are beyond impressive.

Recently someone calculated the financial impact for a single state. Wilder Research of St. Paul, Minnesota found that over the past 25 years Michigan had saved $1.15 billion. Here is the break down on the returns:

Schools – $221 million in K-12 savings from reduced special education costs, drop out, and grade retention.
 
Taxpayers – $584 million in reduced government spending and increased tax revenues from more productive adults.

The public – $347 million in reduced social costs to the public realized through reduced incarceration, destruction, and injury caused through violence and crime.

The economy – $1.3 billion annually including generated wages and reduced government spending.

A strong body of credible research that says, "pre-k pays" -- and yet there are still those who balk at the decision to invest in kids. In these tough economic times, we can only be certain of one thing: Our future will be determined by the success of our children. Maybe we should hedge our bets and invest in them.

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