The City of Virginia Beach is committed to early childhood education and development, and we are fortunate to have leaders who understand how critical the first eight years of life are. Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, City Manager Dave Hansen, and Department of Economic Development Director Warren Harris recognize the importance of early childhood education to our current and future way of life. In fact, it is an integral part of our economic development strategy, and Virginia Beach is the only municipality to strategically organize our early childhood initiative within a Department of Economic Development. Visit the Department’s website for more information.
We know that investing in early childhood education and development is one of the smartest decisions we can make to ensure a vibrant economy, skilled workforce, and safe community down the road. There is no magic bullet to solve all of our community’s problems; however, significant evidence from both the public and private sectors points to a very high return on investment for high-quality early childhood programs that are comprehensive, research-based, and adequately funded. With 80% of the benefits accruing to society at large, not just to the individual who benefits from such programs, why wouldn’t we invest?
Economists, researchers, legislators, and businesspeople have begun to realize the significant positive impact that adequate investment in our young children will have on our future economic vitality. Economist Arthur J. Rolnick and Robert Gunewald of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis were among the first to study the economic impact of investment in early childhood in 2007. They found a high return on investment, resulting from enriched education beginning in preschool and extending through third grade. Rolnick and Gunewald were soon joined by many vocal researchers advocates, such as University of Chicago Nobel Prize-winning economist John Heckman, who developed the “Heckman Equation,”; Upjohn Institute economist Timothy Bartik; and researchers from the Pew Center on the States, the Society for Human Resource Management, the United States Chamber of Commerce, and many others. These researchers compiled a body of evidence that shows for every $1 in public money invested, the ROI (return on investment) is between $7 and $10. This is greater than the average annual return for both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (6.77%) and the S&P 500 Index (6.56%) for the last 40 years.
Some of the ways this high ROI is realized:
Here in Virginia, a joint study by the Economic Policy Institute and the Commonwealth Institute found that Virginia could save $2 billion over the next 17 years by adequately investing in early childhood. The savings would come in form of reduced costs for special education, child welfare, grade retention, juvenile and adult crime, and because of increased earnings by participants of high-quality early childhood education programs.
Find a list of publications and studies that support the economic argument for investment in early childhood here.
What is the impact on a community of having a well-educated, well-trained local workforce ready to meet the demands of area businesses? Employers recognize the need for quality employees to fill mission-critical positions. Business leaders often make decisions about where to locate, relocate, or expand based, at least in part, on the availability of a highly-skilled local workforce.
It is no secret that an excellent educational foundation is the key to developing a highly-skilled workforce. Unfortunately, global education rankings continue to demonstrate that, compared to their peers, too many United States high schoolers lack this foundation. In 2012, of 34 developed nations, fifteen-year-olds in the United States ranked:
The U.S. is 20th of 28 nations in high school graduation rates and 13th of 27 nations in college graduation rates. (Of these same 27 nations, the U.S. ranks second in the percentage of students who enter college without earning a degree.) Results from the last several years of the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) show that in no state are more than half of fourth grade students proficient in both reading and math. Obviously, the root of the problem is much earlier than the secondary grades. For too many American students, a strong foundation is not being laid in the first eight years.
When we consider the fact that jobs requiring some form of post-secondary education will increase 63% by the year 2020, it becomes that much more important that students not only earn a high school diploma but have sufficient knowledge and skills to progress beyond 12th grade. Brain research has proven that the best time for introducing critical skills and traits, such as problem-solving, creative thinking, collaboration, and perseverance, is in the earliest years of life. If we are to compete globally for the jobs of the future, we must begin to prepare our workforce when it counts the most: in the first eight years of life.
The research is clear. Workforce development begins at the earliest stages of an individual’s education. High school students lacking a strong academic foundation will not be ready to enter the workforce, military, or post-secondary education. This foundation must be laid in the preschool years then built upon throughout the elementary, middle, and high school grades.
A high crime rate in a community negatively impacts not just the physical environment and quality of life of those who live there, but also that community’s ability to attract and retain business. The factors leading to the severity of a given community’s crime problems are varied and complex. But a significant root cause in every community with a high crime rate is the real or perceived lack of viable alternatives for offenders. Once again, we return to strength of an individual’s academic foundation as a significant predictor of future involvement in illegal activities. This is particularly true in severely impoverished areas.
To fully grasp the strong correlation between educational achievement and criminal activity, consider the following:
: Bringing together City, Schools, and the Community for
a common mission.
GrowSmart’s mission is to promote and improve the
healthy development, school readiness, and reading
proficiency of young children, ages 0-8, in Virginia
This site was designed to provide information and resources for Virginia Beach parents, caregivers,and teachers of young children, ages 0-8.
The site is also intended for our community stakeholders who wish to find out more about the City of Virginia Beach’s early learning efforts and how you can get involved.
Address: 4525 Main Street Suite 700 Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Phone: (757) 385-0144
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| The City of Virginia Beach