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Kentucky report finds new preschools boost economy more than construction, retail

Ms DeLelio is starting her three-hour afternoon class at 11.30am. She teaches El Sereno Elementary's state PreK program to 23 children from 8am-11am and 23 children from 11.30am-2.30pm.
Ms DeLelio is starting her three-hour afternoon class at 11.30am. She teaches El Sereno Elementary's state PreK program to 23 children from 8am-11am and 23 children from 11.30am-2.30pm. Deepa Fernandes / KPCC

For every $1 invested in early childhood education, the state of Kentucky gets a return of $1.64 in spending by those schools and its staff, according to a new report endorsed by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and some of the state's business leaders. Beshear is proposing an expansion of early education programs there.

The report was compiled by America’s Edge, a non-profit business group that researches what it calls “proven investments” and is funded by the Gates Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation. It used a predictive economic modelling system to calculate the return on investment, analyzing potential revenue from goods that child care businesses would buy and money that new workers would spend.

The report found investing in the early education sector provided a greater return than investing in sectors such as construction, transportation and retail. It also found that early education was critical to building the future workforce, a sentiment reiterated by some Kentucky business leaders.

Helen Carroll, community relations manager for Toyota, said at a press conference that the car company has found a "lack of folks who are prepared to come to work and build our vehicles.” She said Toyota investigated why it's hard to find qualified employees.

“Our evaluation of root cause goes directly to lack of early childhood education," she said.

Beshear is proposing a $36 million expansion in the state’s early education over two years, adding 5,000 more 3- and 4- year olds.

“We’ve long known... that kids who get off to a good start on the first day of school have a better shot at a more successful education and professional career,” he said, adding this report proves it.

The Kentucky legislature has not been as supportive of his expansion plans. House Democrats have proposed significantly less for state preschool.

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