October 15, 2008

Federal Reserve Bank Official, California Legislative Leader Urge Los Angeles Area Business Leaders to Support Investment in Early Childhood Education

Citing the proven benefits of preschool education, an official from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and the California Assembly's Judiciary Committee Chairman urged Los Angeles area business leaders today to support efforts to expand access to Early Childhood Education throughout Los Angeles County.

Rob Grunewald, Associate Economist with the Federal Reserve Bank, and Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, told business leaders that the business community has much to gain from children attending preschool as they tend to be more successful in the k-12 school system and beyond.

"The early years are going to set the tone for that child's future," said Grunewald. "The achievement gap arrives in kindergarten and it doesn't stop there. Those kids who fall behind typically don't catch up."

Assemblyman Jones urged the 75 business leaders attending the meeting organized by Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) at the City Club in downtown Los Angeles to support efforts to make preschool education accessible to all children across the county, because of its proven advantages. And because the state is currently in the middle of an economic crisis, he urged area business leaders to become more involved.

"We desperately need the assistance of the private sector," said Jones, a champion of preschool education in the legislature. "We really do need your assistance."

Grunewald and Jones spoke during a "Corporate Breakfast" event held by LAUP, a leading organization committed to making preschool education accessible to every four-year-old in Los Angeles County. LAUP brought together the gathering of business leaders to discuss the importance and need for expanded Early Childhood Education opportunities for children in the county. The event was sponsored by Southern California Edison, and co-sponsored by many other businesses.

In his address to the audience, Grunewald said studies show that children who attend preschool are more likely to graduate from high school and pursue higher education. That, in turn, often gives them the educational background and skills that businesses look for when making hiring decisions.

"States that have a more educated workforce are typically better off," he explained. He added the availability of a quality workforce often ranks at the top of priorities for many businesses.

Grunewald added that taxpayers also benefit greatly from investing in Early Childhood Education, as the return on such investment is typically very high. For instance, a RAND Corp. study shows that for every dollar that is invested in quality preschool, the public saves $2.62 in reduced special education needs, crime prevention and other social costs. Grunewald said other prominent studies show an even greater rate-of-return to society.

Jones said building a public-private partnership to expand Early Childhood Education opportunities in California is crucial at a time when the state is suffering from large budget deficits that are resulting in budget cuts for many programs. He said it is essential that the business community do what it can to support and build public awareness about the importance of high-quality preschool education, both locally and statewide.

But he also acknowledged the challenges ahead facing efforts to implement universal preschool in Los Angeles County, or California as a whole, because of current economic conditions.

Citing scarce resources, Jones said any efforts to expand Early Childhood Education opportunities for children, especially those who are considered at-risk and come from low-income families, should focus on the importance of creating high-quality preschool sites. The public is more likely to support funding for Early Childhood Education if it can be assured that quality will not be compromised, he noted.

Gary Mangiofico, CEO of LAUP, thanked all the business leaders in attendance of the event, and invited them to partner with the organization in increasing accessibility to preschool education. "This is an issue that is of great importance, as it affects all of us in the long run," he explained. "We want to build a strong relationship with the business community, as together, we can make universal preschool a reality."

For more information about LAUP, please visit www.laup.net.

Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) is an independent, public benefit corporation dedicated to making voluntary, high-quality preschool available to every 4-year-old in Los Angeles County. Created in 2004 and funded predominantly by First 5 LA, LAUP is supporting the development of preschool classrooms that will bring the total number of children served by LAUP to 10,500 annually. By combining innovative business practices with a deep understanding of early childhood education, LAUP serves as a model for universal preschool systems across the state and around the country.