A Broader, Bolder Christmas: Top Ten “Gifts” for Under the (Education Policy) Tree
Co-authored with Elaine Weiss
10. A Roof Over Every Student’s Head: Children who lack stable homes are more anxious and less focused than their peers who have adequate housing. They are also at higher risk for poor health and developmental problems, and have lower educational attainment. There is no reason why any child in the United States should not enjoy stable housing. Moreover, we end up paying more for children to sleep in cars or in shelters than we would to provide their families with apartments. It’s time to fund the National Housing Trust Fund that was signed into law by President George W. Bush but never funded.
9. School Breakfast and Lunch for All Eligible Students: Children who are hungry have difficulty concentrating and an impaired learning ability. The recession raised already unacceptable levels of child food insecurity to crisis levels. In Ohio, one in four children was at risk of going hungry in 2012. More than half of surveyed teachers told Share our Strength that they buy food to feed their hungry students. Eating school breakfasts is associated with increased math and reading scores, improved speed and memory in cognitive tests, stronger academic performance, and improved attendance and punctuality. It’s time for schools to adopt policies like universal breakfast and breakfast in the classroom.
8. Expanded Access to Quality Pre-kindergarten: When a Nobel Laureate economist (James Heckman), chair of the Federal Reserve Bank (Ben Bernanke) and one of the nation’s best-loved billionaires (Warren Buffett) all agree that quality pre-kindergarten is the smartest public investment, shouldn’t that give us pause? A recent report on Texas’s large, poor-quality pre-k program demonstrates that even low-cost programs deliver public benefits. Expanding access in states that already provide higher-quality pre-k—like Alabama, Illinois, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania—would greatly increase those benefits. Further, Head Start currently serves fewer than half of eligible low-income 3- and 4-year-olds and needs renewed attention. Research shows that children who participated in a quality program during their preschool years are better prepared to learn, have higher self-esteem, and more developed social skills when they start kindergarten. These investments are truly a no-brainer.