A good pre-school education is the key to helping children from poor families get ready for formal school and do better on standardized tests.  However pre-school spending in America, as a percentage of GDP, has been dropping since 2002.  This, while other rich countries have been increasing the amount they are spending on such programs.

More and more, wealthy countries (except America) are moving pre-school children out of homes and into early education.

Following are the percentage of GDP spent on early education by a sampling of wealthy nations.

Denmark         1.35%

France             1.3%

South Korea    .85%

Britain              .75%

Germany         .55%

Italy     .           45%

Japan              .4%

U.S.                 .375

 Early education is not only beneficial to the children.  Such programs enable women to enter the workplace.  This is another boost to GDP and saves the state money in family support.

Other wealthy countries have increased the age range of children eligible for day care from 3 to 4 year olds to included 6 months to 3 years old.

France takes children from the age of 2.  This has enable women to reach unprecedented levels of employment.

Germany has made it a legal right of a parent to place any child over the age of one in day care.

Many Scandinavian countries had this debate decades ago and decided to make early childhood day care universal.  This led to both fertility rates and labor-market participation rates in the Scandinavian countries to be above the average for other rich countries.

A further benefit for those concerned with the assimilation of immigrants in the local culture is that children from low income parents, mainly immigrants, are required to attend day care for at least 25 hours a week, thereby assimilating the country’s language, culture and values.

Recent advances in neurology have shown that children’s brains are most plastic from birth to 5 years old.

It has been found that early education has leveled the playing field between children of poor and wealthy parents.

It has been calculated that the return on investment in high-quality birth to 5 year old education is between 7% and 13%.  This in the form of better health, less poverty (and therefore government support) and less crime.

With social services and criminal incarceration breaking the back of communities nation wide, improving the chances of poor and middle-class children to avoid poverty, homelessness, crime, drug dependency, and relying on social services is a win-win situation.  In fact, the resulting boost to the incomes of these children later in life at almost 10 times greater than the cost of the programs.

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