Educating Children Early

Investing in early childhood care and education is not about ideology. It’s simply a smart investment, a thing otherwise elusive these days. Investing in young children pays big dividends.

The Vineyard Affordable Child Care Project is a model program, run on a shoestring by two people who use local insight and a commitment to quality to maximize its impact. Yet this project is being crippled by sudden and short-sighted budget cutbacks.

Because of a departmental deficit, state bureaucrats have ordered the Vineyard project to say no to any new applicants, even where parents qualify as low-income workers whose child would benefit from early education. Further, because of Gov. Patrick’s latest budget cuts, the Vineyard project must stop paying preschools a full tuition subsidy for the children already enrolled.

Even worse, the state is reducing local control. Such streamlining may seem clever in a Boston consultant’s presentation, but is completely wrong for struggling parents on the Vineyard, where going to a regional office in Hyannis is costly and challenging.

Experience suggests that even when states are under fiscal stress, pre-kindergareten education wins broad public support. President-elect Obama campaigned on the good sense in universal early education, noting that spending at the preschool age evidently reduces other, more expensive problems later in life. Let’s hope Mr. Obama does not loose his commitment as dramatically as his old friend Mr. Patrick has.

Apparently if Massachusetts hadn’t fought for public education hundreds of years ago, some would argue it was an entitlement unjustified in this Twenty-First century’s current economy. But education is worth fighting for now, for all the same reasons it was then.