To the editor:
Bravo to Kristine Hazzard ("Investment in pre-K will pay big dividends in literacy," Eagle, Nov. 11) for underscoring the importance of early education through the Pittsfield Promise coalition.
As Ms. Hazzard referenced, putting our youngest learners on the right path will improve outcomes for students and ensure all Berkshire County children arrive at school ready to learn. Ms. Hazzard's linking of high-quality early education and care to educational success is spot-on. It is absolutely true that pre-K can have a significant, positive impact, particularly for at-risk children.
Recognizing this truth, House Speaker Robert DeLeo created the Early Education and Care Business Advisory Group to study and make recommendations on the critical needs of the early education and care workforce. I served on that group, along with Jonathan Butler from 1Berkshire and 13 other business leaders from across the state. We were guided by the fact that the most significant determinant of quality is the teacher in the classroom, and developing, professionalizing and retaining the early education workforce is critical.
One of our findings was that there needs to be more focus on building a strong workforce development system for early educators. Increasing compensation is a piece of that puzzle, as doing so will help retain teachers as well as attract new ones with the best credentials. To the credit of state leaders, and as Ms. Hazzard highlighted, this past year saw the largest increase in reimbursement rates to early childhood providers in decades. At the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, we do a lot of work in workforce development — and not just in the early-education sector.
It's clear that boosting investments in quality early education helps pave the way for developing the strong future workforce that Massachusetts needs. High-quality early learning programs can increase the likelihood of students going on to complete college and participate successfully in the workplace, improving kids' lives and improving our economy in the process — another reason why Pittsfield Promise is such an important initiative. Research cited by the nonpartisan business leader organization ReadyNation shows how: Investing in quality early programs can net up to $34,000 in short- and long-term economic benefits for each pupil served. That savings comes from a variety of positive outcomes, including better high school graduation rates, reduced crime, less need for special education and less grade repetition.
A commitment to increasing access and quality will allow our pre-K programs — and our students — to reach their greatest potential.
The writer is executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and a member of ReadyNation.