In 1888, Lucy Wheelock established the first Kindergarten teacher preparation program in the city of Boston. At its core was the belief that opportunities for early learning are integral to the lifelong wellness of children, families and communities. Now, 125 years later, the early childhood education program and its philosophy serves as the foundation for Wheelock College. Without a doubt, our founder Lucy Wheelock was a pioneering thinker, and her legacy continues to shape the public domain today, with the expansion of early education currently under consideration by state as well as federal lawmakers.
President Obama and governors across the country are prioritizing early education. The President's historic proposal for universal preschool came as a necessary imperative to the countless early education teachers and advocates who have fought for expansion over many decades. With proven science in hand, advocates have and will continue to demonstrate that the earliest years of a child's life are the most significant in his or her human development. It is a known fact that over 90 percent of the brain is constructed and the road map for future social, emotional and physical development takes form through interactive relationships. While there is always opportunity for resilience, research shows that addressing delays in development early increases the chances for improved outcomes. In fact, high quality early childhood education and care is one of the few social policy interventions that have proven to really work; in terms of both long-term educational and human development outcomes as well as economic benefits to society. These investments support what science tells us and what Lucy Wheelock told us over a century ago: "the greatest cause that can be served is childhood education."
President Obama's early education proposals represent the largest expansion of early learning since Head Start was established in 1965. Under the President's plan, $750 million would be allocated to a new federal-state partnership, called "Pre-school for All," to create and expand early education slots for low to moderate income children at 4 years old. Congress now has a chance to consider and adopt the President's proposals, and should. Investing in early education now will save in future social costs, yielding an estimated return of 16% that can be spent elsewhere or saved all together.
Massachusetts Governor Patrick proposed landmark investments in early education, positioning the state to be a national leader in his FY14 budget proposal. However -- in a major disappointment for early education advocates, teachers and families across the Commonwealth that fought long and hard for expansion -- the House's plan does not include the Governor's proposals and cuts the early education budget by about $11 million from FY13. Yet, there is still some reason to be optimistic as the Senate is yet to release its budget. Both the Senate and House will appoint a Conference Committee in June to negotiate the differences between both budgets before sending a joint proposal to the Governor for his signature or veto.
At Wheelock College, we believe in the power of advocacy for early education and care. This is why we host an Annual Statewide Community Dialogue in May every year to bring federal, state and local administrators together with providers, policymakers, educators, and many others seeking to improve the quality and effectiveness of early childhood education. The goal is to discuss leadership and alliances needed to achieve a more cohesive delivery system, dedicated to equitable and high quality programming in all domains of the field. The outcome of this dialogue is the formation of action steps and opportunities to speak up on behalf of investments necessary in children and families.
This cause -- our children-our youngest citizens -- cannot wait another 5, 10, 25 or more years for action on knowledge at our fingers tips for the past 125 years.