The business case for pre-k is a straightforward one. High quality pre-k is workforce development. And, more Arkansas business leaders are becoming pre-k leaders. The members of the Conway and Jonesboro Chambers of Commerce and the Northwest Arkansas Council can see that quality pre-k:
- is cost-effective (saving long-term costs in the K-12, health and justice systems),
- provides support for our current workforce (made up largely of parents), and
- creates the brain building blocks necessary to be ready for Kindergarten and to read at grade level by third grade.
This last point is an especially important one as reading at grade level in third grade is a strong indicator of high school graduation. We all know how important high school graduation and a well-trained workforce are to success in the jobs of today and tomorrow. For additional nuts and bolts, we have a more detailed report here.
In Conway, the Chamber of Commerce committed $50,000 each year for the Lifelong Learners initiative. Recognizing that Arkansas’s existing quality pre-k program offered quality pre-k to many, but not all kiddos in Conway, this $50,000 investment is providing parents and private pre-k providers (who are not a part of the state ABC program) with access to the best in training and teaching materials. This community-driven approach to expanding access to quality pre-k is reaching an additional 270 pre-schoolers.
In Jonesboro, the Chamber of Commerce just completed an extensive strategic planning process for economic development. And what was one of the tools included in the report? Quality pre-k. In the executive summary of the Jonesboro Economic Development Strategy, city leaders are calling for funding for early childhood education programs.
The Northwest Arkansas Council, an economic development group made up of the biggest businesses in the region, recognizes the importance of quality pre-K. Mike Malone, its CEO, said early childhood investments pay big dividends in the economy. Tyson Foods announced a $250,000 investment in the expansion of the high-quality Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center, lauding early childhood development as an investment in the company’s future workforce.
We are excited to see what develops in all these efforts throughout our state, and we are thrilled to see business leaders from around the state recognizing the value of pre-k.
If you are a business leader in your community, take this opportunity to become a pre-k leader, too. It will pay dividends.
Do you have a business pre-k leader in your community? Share your stories with us on Facebook and twitter.