The Current and Future Role of Business in Early Education


Business leaders are a growing force in early education, as executives recognize the strong workforce they are demanding starts developing in the womb, crib and preschool classroom. Today, many businesses not only support early learning, but also help shape public policies.


Their role was clear over the last week. A coalition of business leaders, Ready Nation/America’s Edge, joined forces with The Brookings Institution to explain “Why Businesses Should See Early Childhood Development as a Smart Investment.”


The webinar not only reviewed the private-sector benefits of early education — early years are the most important time for brain development, long-term returns, and potential to narrow the opportunity gap — but also showed this issue is moving higher on the business agenda.


Business support for early learning may not be breaking news, but its recent growth is. It is hard to think of a more effective player in the public policy arena. As Congress and state legislatures address the tough challenges of expanding and improving high-quality child care and preschool, such as developing new funding sources, the business community has the experience and connections to help.


In Washington, leading businesses have a long record of backing early learning. The Boeing Co., for example, is an established supporter of Thrive by Five Washington. (Thrive’s new president & CEO, Sam Whiting, came from the commercial airplane giant.) Around the country, businesses are working on early learning issues.


Almost every state in the country has active business roundtables and chambers supporting early childhood. Other ways that businesses serve as advocates for [early childhood development] include: sharing information with employees, contributing time, resources, and volunteers to local organizations, talking to the media, and communicating with elected and appointed officials and encouraging their local business organizations to develop formal positions and host events on the benefits of ECD programs.

“Why Businesses Should See Early Childhood Development as a Smart Investment.” 4/15/14.

But, it is not simply support. Forbes ran a story on its Entrepreneurs blog not only about education, but also “Why Playful Learning Is The Key To Prosperity.” It argued that to solve problems of a technological and evolving word: “… we need to re-train our workforce to do what machines can’t: to be enterprising, independent and strategic thinkers — to be purposeful creators. This starts with changing the way students, especially the youngest ones, learn.”


(Thanks to ECE PolicyWorks for highlighting this story.)


The alliance of advocates and business leaders may not solve all the challenges in early learning, but it could be an engine that leads to a lot of answers.

Further Reading


Home visiting is one of the main elements of Washington state’s broad early learning work, and this week, EdCentral’s Ed Watch has a story on “Challenges and Best Practices for Scaling Home Visiting Programs.”


A recent Mathematica study digs into the challenges of faithfully implementing, scaling up, and sustaining home visiting programs. It investigated the effects of the Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment initiative. The program funded organizations to design and implement programs by selecting from a set of five evidence-based home visiting models (Healthy Families America, the Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, SafeCare, and Triple P).

—EdCentral Early Ed. New America Foundation, 4/15/14.

Check it out.