Long-term value in early education

Posted5/30/2019 1:00 AM

The recent article about the Precision Machining Competition hosted by the Technology & Manufacturing Association makes an excellent point.

As a retired brigadier general and former military pilot, I also came from a manufacturing background. Sparking interest in an industry or profession at an early age is crucial.


Students deciding on a satisfying future require smart budgeting and tough choices. Our leaders in the Illinois General Assembly are faced with just such a dilemma in deciding our state's final budget for FY 2020.

Our policymakers should be mindful that military service is not even an option for 70 percent of Illinois' 17- to 24-year-olds. Leading reasons are because they lack the necessary education, are too overweight or have a record of crime or drug use. Simply stated, we need to make sure young people stay in school, in shape and out of trouble.

This statistic has real national security implications, and we should all be concerned. Thankfully, research demonstrates we can find answers to the challenges, and sometimes in seemingly unlikely places.

Programs like Illinois' Lincoln's Challenge Academy help teens get back on track, and the pool of potential recruits could be expanded further if we invested more in our children early on.

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Children in high-quality child care and preschool programs are better positioned for success in school and later in life. A study found that those in higher-quality child care were better prepared for school at age 4 and demonstrated significantly lower levels of behavioral problems at age 15 than their peers in lower-quality care.

Investing in early childhood care and education programs will help future adults perform the most important work in our nation. Whether serving in the military, private industry or both, investment in our youth has the best return of all.

James W. Schroeder


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