BUILDing Strong Foundations

Early Learning Left Out

10/28/2013 12:00:00 AM
Posted by: BUILD Initiative
President Barack Obama is now the fourth successive president to call for increased public attention to and investments in the education and development of young children. 

The latest edition of Early Learning Left Out (ELLO), produced by the BUILD Initiative, analyzes the most recent available federal, state, and school district budget information to determine how much is invested today in young children and whether that is sufficient to meet the 1989 First National Education Goal that “all children start school ready to learn.”

The data make abundantly clear that America is falling short. ELLO shows that for every dollar the country invests in the education and development of each school-aged child, only seven cents is invested in the education and development of each infant and toddler and twenty-five cents in each pre-schooler.


Since the establishment of the First National Education Goal nearly a quarter century ago:

  • Knowledge of the importance of the early years to lifelong success has advanced.
  • Evidence of successful interventions to improve school readiness has increased.
  • And public support for investments in the earliest years has grown. 
Overall public investments, however, have not increased in any way commensurate with this evidence. And, during the same period, America’s world leadership in educating its children and youth is being challenged, and this is nowhere more apparent than in the earliest learning years.


ELLO not only provides information on current investments, but also shows the limitations of current investments in reaching young children who need additional early childhood supports to start school ready for success.

President Obama’s call for $10 billion annually in new investments in preschool and other early childhood programs would not close this gap, according to ELLO, but it would provide a down payment that would have high long-term benefits to society. 

Particularly important is examining the very earliest – birth to three years – which set the trajectory for children’s development and growth in all subsequent years.

By publishing Early Learning Left Out, the BUILD Initiative hopes that there will be much greater attention directed to policymakers and their positions on early childhood investments at the federal, state, and community levels. While children’s issues often are not “top tier” policy issues, ELLO shows they are critical ones to public policy and the country’s future growth and prosperity.


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