Bob Marx calls on Congress to increase funding for early childhood education immediately so that we create a brighter future for the next generation of Americans.
Speaking to a group of Big Island residents today, Marx stated: “The time is now to invest in early childhood education. We cannot afford to wait any longer. The state of our education system here in Hawai‘i is in shambles – our schools fall far below the national average, and many are below developing countries like Singapore. Less than half of our keiki entering kindergarten is prepared for elementary school, mostly due to not attending preschool.”
There have been dramatic cuts in preschool and pre-K programs nationwide. The results of these cuts have been especially devastating in Hawai‘i: 1 in 3 of our third grade students cannot read. “The problem is that we are on the wrong side of trying to solve the problem at the third grade level – when what we should be doing is investing in preventative measures like early education,” Marx stated.
Recent statistics show that for every $1 spent on early education there is a $4.20 return on that investment in taxpayer savings by reducing the amount of spending on social welfare services. Hawai‘i spends $16,520 per student per year to attend public schools versus $46,720 per person per year to house our prisoners. Long term studies show the quality early education leads to reduced crime, promotion of the importance of education, resulting in a more skilled workforce. The annual rate of return nears 10% on every dollar spent on early education.
“We need to start investing in young children. We can do this by making sure there is sufficient funding to train more teachers,” Marx added. “We need to stimulate this struggling economy, but we need to invest in the things that matter, in the things that will have a long-term benefit for our ’Ohana. Pouring millions into infrastructure, like fixing roads and potholes is a great way to create new jobs in the short-term. But what happens when the roads are fixed and the potholes are filled? What kind of return on that investment do we get? I can tell you that the return is nowhere near the return we will see if those same dollars are spent on early education,” Marx stressed.
“Very young children are some of the most underrepresented sector of our population. Did you know that 85% of the human brain develops before the age of 5? Children’s brains are much more active than adult brains – in children ages 3 to 10, brain function is 2 ½ times that of an adult. Studies show that poor experiences as a young child lead to devastating effects later in life, including unhealthy relationships, poor dietary habits and the inability to hold a job,” Marx continued.
Our state spends three times as much money housing prisoners than it does on education for our children: $46,720/year vs. $16,520/year. Nationally, the Federal Government spends 8 times more money on Defense than on Education. Instead of spending $1 million on one bomb, that same money could be spent on paying 25 teacher’s salaries at $40,000/year.
“We need to start investing in human potential now. It cannot wait any longer,” Marx stressed. “People insist that we cannot instill the importance of education in families who don’t put an emphasis on going to school. How can we instill the value of education to parents and grandparents who did not finish high school? We must start by investing in early education.
“Behavior is learned, but if we can instill the importance of educating our children, then we can stop that cycle. Our children are our future, and if we don’t invest in our future now, pretty soon it will be too late. We are at a tipping point. If we don’t act immediately, the long-term effects will be irreversible. If we don’t put in the money now, there will be nothing to cash in on later,” Marx continued.
“The amount of money spent of welfare services: medical assistance, food stamps, welfare subsidies, special education programs, family interventional services, mental health services, and corrections, pales in comparison to what can be saved by investing in our kids. All the millions and millions of dollars we spend annually on these services would be dramatically reduced if those same dollars were invested in educating our children now. Every five hours a child is born into poverty in Hawai‘i. We need to ensure that all of those children have access to a quality education so that they can create a better life for themselves and their families,” Marx concluded.
Bob Marx is a Democratic Candidate for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District, which represents rural Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and the Big Island