On September 18th, key stakeholders met at Miami-Dade College for an all-day summit to discuss the importance of investing in quality early education for the success of our country’s economic future. The National Summit on Hispanic Early Learning, hosted by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and its President’s Advisory Commission engaged philanthropists, non-profit, business and community leaders, state and local government officials, media experts, researchers and advocacy representatives in a timely conversation on the critical need for raising awareness on and increasing access to high quality early childhood education for the Hispanics community.
The Undersecretary of Education, Martha Kanter, acknowledged in her opening remarks that the success of the nation’s economy coincides with the progress of the Hispanic community, and that in order for Hispanics to contribute to the United States and help us compete in a global economy, they need a comprehensive foundation.
Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority group in the nation, and by 2060 they are expected to account for more than one quarter of the total US population. However, in the current K-12 public school system, Hispanics already account for one in four students.
Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of those children participate in a high-quality preschool program.
The first five years of childhood account for the greatest developmental growth, allowing children to establish the social and cognitive skills necessary for academic success.
Lacking the appropriate educational groundwork, many Hispanics enter their first year of school on average 12-18 months behind their peers. Researcher Steven Barnett, from the National Institute for Early Education Research, discussed the lower enrollment rates in early learning programs and a significant achievement gap among Hispanics, pointing to language barriers and affordability as major contributing factors. He went on to say that when Hispanics participate in preschool programs, they have the largest gains among any other demographic, are less likely to repeat grades and drop out, and more likely to have higher test scores and graduate from both high school and college.
Panelists Gladys Montes, Vice President of the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, and Jeff Schoenberg, advisor for the J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, expressed their concerns with the discourse of early childhood education without effective advocacy and outreach. They discussed the importance of having tangible results to back intuition in order to convince policymakers of the priority of early education.
Nobel Prize winning economist Professor James Heckman added that investing in early childhood education has several social and economic benefits beyond the boundaries of a classroom, claiming that early
childhood education yields one of the highest rates of return available to the American public. Via recorded message, Heckman highlighted that every dollar devoted to early childhood education produces a return of 7 dollars through better outcomes in education and health, reduced social spending and increased lifelong productivity.
There has been significant progress to advance early learning under the Obama Administration. Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education, and Libby Doggett, Assistant Secretary
for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning, discussed the President’s 75 billion dollar Preschool for All proposal, and an expansion of Head Start and Early Head Start programs that would reach an additional 60,000 families, including more than 20,00 Latino families. In his new budget proposal, the President has also offered $750 million for competitive grants to states in order to strengthen their early learning systems. [UDoE1]
Martha Kanter closed by reiterating that it is a shared responsibility, not just for the federal government but among every individual of the melting pot, from educators and parents to public officials and philanthropists. Participants made key recommendations for continued engagement and amplification focusing on media opportunities, public policy and partnerships. They – and we – remain committed to ensuring every child in America has access to early learning and care, no matter their race, color or zip code.
For more information on early learning, please visit http://www.ed.gov/early-learning.
View the full videos of the Summit.