Would you rather invest in prisons or preschool? That’s the question politicians pose after talking to experts in state government. Prison planners say elementary–school reading scores for at–risk kids are one of the best predictors for how many beds they’ll need 10 years down the line. Quality early education leads to less crime and lower incarceration rates, fewer people on public assistance, reduced need for special education and grade repetition, increased employment, wages and taxes paid, fewer teen pregnancies and less smoking. Preschool age learning makes life better, safer, and more secure for all of us.

Preschool is a matter of national security, according to a recent report by some of America’s top retired military officials. "Today, 75 percent of 17 to 24–year–olds do not meet the basic minimum standards required for military service," they write. How do we turn this battleship around? "The path to success does not begin at age 17," the group says. "The earliest months and years of life are a crucial time when we build the foundation of children’s character, how they relate to others and how they learn. Long–term research shows that quality early childhood education raises graduation rates by up to 44%. Research further shows that kids who fail to get it are 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18, making them potentially unfit for service and a threat to their communities. Furthermore, every dollar invested in quality early childhood programs can save $16. We must invest now in the next generation to preserve our nation’s security, freedom, and opportunity."

Early childhood education pays huge dividends – not just to the kids who receive it, but to society also. Doctors say starting early is crucial because the brain grows to 90% of its adult size in the first five years. This is when kids learn the basics about numbers and language, how to get along with others, how to concentrate on tasks, and how to solve problems. Yet, Colorado teachers report that one–third of kids show up to Kindergarten without these crucial learning skills. Once a child falls behind, they stay behind. They become tax consumers rather than tax generators. On the other hand, every $1 invested in quality early childhood programs can save taxpayers up to $17 down the road, studies have determined. Give kids and our economy a boost – make sure active learning starts early.