In the latest budget drafts President Trump has encouraged a cut to the Department of Education, by roughly 13.5%. Included within this proposal will be cuts to early childhood education programs. While budget cuts can be seen as an important initiative for our economy with an increasing deficit, any cuts to education will inhibit our potential for future growth.
Cutting education funding is a poor idea and if early childhood education funding gets reduced in the budget then low-income families will not have an opportunity to send their children to early preschool programs. If less children receive early childhood education, then our “technical progress” or innovation will be diminished.
According to the Solow Growth Model increasing education funding substantially adds to economic growth. In recent studies increasing the amount of education per worker by 10 percent would be to increase GDP by about 4 to 5 percent. Additionally, Edward Denison estimated that between 1929 and 1982, increasing levels of education were the source of 16 percent of the growth of total output in the nonresidential business sector. If we can increase the early education levels of our citizens the amount put in will be repaid several times over.
In a study at Perry Preschool Program, which provided early education to a small group of disadvantaged children in Ypsilanti Michigan half a century ago, it displayed positive effects of early education. At age twenty-seven, participants in the program were found to have levels of educational attainment 0.9 years greater than non-participants. The short term costs of early education are offset by the immediate and long-term benefits. This is seen through reductions in the need for social services, lower crime rates, increased self-sufficiency and productivity among families. If universal prekindergarten was implemented it is likely that the annual benefits to costs ratio would be around 8.9 to 1 according to Equitable Growth.
If the studies still hold true today, it would be an absolute mistake to cut funding to early childhood initiatives. The federal expenditures on early childhood are already very limited, any further decrease could reduce future economic growth. President Trump and his economic advisors should seriously consider increasing funding to early childhood programs and not a cut.