Wednesday, May 22, 2013
As someone with roots in Winthrop, I was pleased to read the recent Maine Compass by Rep. Patrick Flood ("Early childhood programs help kids succeed, ensure Maine's future," Oct. 1) about the social and economic value of investments in early childhood development.
I would like to add that high-quality early care and education programs are also important for our future national security.
I am a retired rear admiral of the Navy and a new member of Mission: Readiness, a national security organization that seeks to reverse the alarming statistic that 75 percent of America's young people cannot qualify for military service.
One of the leading disqualifiers for young people is inadequate education. In Maine, more than 20 percent of our students fail to graduate from high school on time or drop out entirely. Of those who do receive a diploma, 19 percent fail the military entrance exam.
We cannot allow this to continue. Head Start, the federal program that provides significant support for early care and education in Maine, faces the possibility of major cuts. We need to improve and expand Head Start, not reduce it.
As Flood suggests, Maine needs long-term strategies that will help our young people succeed in school, graduate and move on to a productive career, military or otherwise. High-quality early education has been proven to increase graduation rates and close the achievement gap, especially for at-risk kids.
Flood said it well: Early childhood education is one of the most cost-efficient methods for improving success for kids now, while also lowering remedial education, health care and justice system costs for our state in the future. It is also important to our national security.
Oakley E. Osborn