The Feb. 6 editorial “Invest in early education” is right to say that universal early childhood education is valuable, but wrong to say that Massachusetts cannot afford it. What we cannot afford is to fail to implement such a program. Every year we put it off, we suffer more long-term losses in economic growth.
Adults who have received high-quality early education are generally more productive, earn more, pay more taxes, rely less on public services, and are less likely to go to prison, which can cost an estimated $50,000 per year. Beyond the money, lack of universal early-education programs hampers equality of opportunity and leads to an incalculable loss in the quality of lives of our children.
Why can we continue to afford education for children in grades K-12 but cannot afford education for younger children, even though neuroscience and experience indicate that cognitive and social development is greatest in those younger children?
If funds are still scarce and our government refuses to raise taxes, let me make a “modest proposal,” in the spirit of Jonathan Swift: Let’s drop years 11 and 12 from public education, and devote the saved resources to early education. Who would argue that the education of the older children is more valuable than that of the younger children?
The writer is a professor emeritus of economics and interim director of the Center for Social Policy at University of Massachusetts Boston.