Soapbox

It’s about children

Political campaigns can quickly become tabloid accounts about issues that divide us instead of inspiring our participation in the electoral process. But the truth is voters are hungry for programs and innovative solutions that enjoy bipartisan support and that help their communities.

When we go to the polls on Tuesday, we can act to support effective and cost-efficient investments in newborn health and early-childhood education.

Reducing the rates of childhood mortality and raising the quality of early-childhood education – here in the U.S. and around the globe – are goals that both parties can and should be working toward. Save the Children Action Network mobilizes Americans to support leaders who advocate stronger investment in early-childhood health and education.

Globally, 6.3 million children under age 5 die each year – that’s 17,000 kids a day, almost all from preventable and treatable causes. While child mortality rates have been reduced by nearly half since 1990, we can do more. Proposed congressional legislation would strengthen America’s commitment to saving 15 million children around the world by 2020.

As American leadership helps more kids around the world survive past their fifth birthday, it is equally important that we make the commitment to helping children succeed at home. Early-childhood education is the best investment we can make in our country’s future. We know that by age 5 a child’s brain is already 90 percent developed, yet 40 percent of age-eligible American children are not enrolled in preschool.

The need for investment in early education is clear. Children living in poverty who are not exposed to high-quality preschool are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 60 percent more likely not to attend college and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. The U.S. ranks 28th out of 38 developed countries in early education enrollment among 4-year-olds. We can and must do better.

A comprehensive, national early childhood education program would add $2 trillion to our annual GDP within a generation, according to the Brookings Institution. It would improve our country’s global competitiveness and ensure that all children – regardless of economic status – have the chance to succeed.

Voters need to make a key distinction between candidates when they go to the polls. Is a candidate just another conventional politician hoping to get elected with generic rhetoric about children’s issues? Or is the candidate a real leader who is going to put public money where his or her mouth is and invest in the futures of all kids?

The candidates who deserve support have plans for how they will invest in high-quality early-childhood education, as well as programs that save newborn and infant lives. We need public servants who can lead on these issues and who will build broad, bipartisan coalitions that will deliver actual legislative accomplishments for children.

Mark Shriver is president of the Save the Children Action Network.

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