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Public Statements

Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, a federal budget outlines our priorities as a Nation. On both sides of the aisle, we should be able to agree: We need to be wise about our Federal investments. We should be investing in what works--in what gives us the biggest bang for our buck.

For decades, study after study has shown what parents already know--that quality early education is foundational for success in school and life. Quality early education can help kids enter kindergarten ready to learn and avoid falling behind. Later in life, kids with quality early learning are more likely to avoid crime or teen pregnancy. They graduate high school and college, avoid poverty, earn more income, and pay more taxes. That is more revenue for our long-term fiscal picture.

We want to cut unnecessary public spending? Kids with preschool are less likely to need public services--from assistance for needy families ..... to prisons.

For a generation, long-term studies have found that investing $1 in quality early learning brings a return on investment of between $2 and $17 after a generation. In Hawaii, a study for Good Beginnings Alliance found we would get $4.20 for every dollar invested. Nobel prize winning economist Jim Heckman did the math over a full lifetime. He estimates an average 7 to 10 percent return on investment per year. In the private sector, business leaders would do anything for a return like that.

On Wall Street, you can't get a long-term return like that in the stock market. So it makes sense that business and financial leaders support quality early learning, from the Hawaii Business Roundtable to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, to leading CEOs, who know that to train tomorrow's workers we must start early.

Law enforcement officials know that quality early learning helps prevent kids from falling behind, dropping out of high school, or getting involved in crime. Military generals and admirals have stressed the importance of quality early education as a national security issue. Today 75 percent of Americans age 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service due to poor education, physical unfitness or involvement with crime. Quality early learning helps kids get on the right path--before they fall behind. Parents know the high cost of childcare is difficult to afford. But parents want more than just safety and supervision for their children. Parents want their children to be prepared academically, socially, and emotionally for success in school and in life.

Teachers and school administrators know firsthand that their students who come to kindergarten with quality preschool are more likely to succeed. We have special education professionals and advocates for students with disabilities. They know quality early learning can identify disabilities early and bring intervention to get kids on track with their peers. That can save billions of dollars in more expensive special education services down the line.

In our States, Governors from both red States and blue States know this is important. In Hawaii we have Governor Abercrombie. In Massachussetts we have Deval Patrick. But also in Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal is pushing for quality early education. In Georgia, Govemor Nathan Deal is pushing for quality early education. In Alabama, Governor Bob Bentley is pushing for quality early education. Oklahoma is a bright red State and they have been doing quality early education for years.

In February, President Obama called for new support for quality early learning. This is the first time we have ever seen this in a State of the Union Address. States are asking their leaders in Congress to act. Today's Senate budget has a deficit-neutral reserve fund for early childhood education.

Here is what that means. It means let's find a way to pass legislation in this Congress. One of the best investments we can make long-term that does NOT hurt our deficit in the next 10 years. Let's invest in what works: high-quality pre-K for low-income children; high-quality childcare for working families; and high-quality home visiting programs serving low-income mothers-to-be and low-income families.

This helps get poor children the health and social services they need before it is too late.

Patty Murray has been working to strengthen quality early education for a long time. She was a mom in tennis shoes. She was a preschool teacher. In the 1980s, she organized 13,000 parents to save a Washington State preschool program. I thank Patty for her work on this issue in the budget. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work with us on early childhood education in this budget and in this Congress. It is one of the best things we can do for our long-term economic health and for our children.


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