Importance of Early Learning

The past decade has seen a substantial increase in public investment in early learning programs by federal, state, and local governments, particularly for economically disadvantaged children.

Immediate and long-term benefits – for children
These investments have been driven by significant and continuing research affirming the positive effects of high-quality early learning programs on the physical, cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and economic outcomes of young children.

Provided with such opportunities, children are more likely to succeed in kindergarten and beyond, and more likely to grow into healthy, capable, and contributing adults. Longitudinal studies have also proven that high-quality programs are especially effective for high-risk children, including low-income and otherwise disadvantaged children, with the great potential to alter their lifetime trajectories.

Long-term benefits – for society as a whole
Well-executed and well-targeted early learning programs have immediate and long-term benefits not only for the children participating in the programs, but also for the societies in which they live, which boast higher levels of educational attainment, reduced homelessness, crime, and substance abuse, improved health, and better overall social and economic well-being.

The economic and social benefits to taxpayers far outweigh the costs of such a program, as detailed in a 2008 economic analysis that calculated a likely return of $4.20 for every dollar that would be invested in a statewide early learning program for Hawaii’s four-year-olds. The early learning sector itself has been identified as a vital economic driver for the State: it employs more than 9,000 residents, enables thousands of parents to participate in the labor force and pursue educational advancement while also preparing the future workforce and contributing to the local economy through purchases and support of other industries.

Today, more than 40 percent of Hawaii’s children start kindergarten without having participated in an early learning program and many of them are 18-24 months behind their peers who have attended a program. Yet, Hawaii is currently one of only 11 states in the nation that does not offer a state-funded early learning program.