Yarrow for SF Chronicle, “If our children are so ‘precious,’ we must invest in them”

We often hear how “precious” a child is, what a “treasure” she is, and how our kids are “our greatest resource.” Neuroscientists tell us that ages 0-3 are the most critical years for cognitive, social and moral development. Economists and business leaders tell us that early childhood education offers one of the best lifetime returns on investment and guarantors of a prosperous economy.

Nonetheless, the United States ranks behind about 30 other rich nations in providing quality, affordable child care, and California is well behind states like Oklahoma and Florida. As Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education, told the Atlantic: “I think we value our children less than other nations do. I don’t have an easier or softer or kinder way to say that.”

Three of the nation’s most pressing needs meet when it comes to caring for and educating young children, although they are often treated as separate issues:

•Nearly half of America’s 3- and 4-year-olds aren’t in preschool, and most young children from 0 to 5 years do not have quality child care or pre-kindergarten, compromising their academic and social development and later-in-life productivity as workers.

•Millions of parents cannot afford child care or preschool, forcing them — mostly mothers — either into the stressful “balancing” of work and young children, or to leave the workforce entirely.

•The 2 million child-care and preschool workers are paid abysmally (in California, on average, the annual income of child-care workers is $27,170), have little prestige, and often lack credentials certifying their competence.

Continue reading at SF Chronicle.

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