Tom Kerr is a volunteer at OpenDoors. In the following blog, he offers his perspective on why he’s convinced that devoting his precious time – and hard-earned money – to OpenDoors is actually one of the best investments he can make.
Childhood Education is a Goldmine for Investors
Harvest season is winding down and it is much too late to go back and replant summer gardens in richer, more nutritious soil. If there wasn’t enough organic support when we put them into the ground, those plants turned out measly. Then again, if we thought ahead and gave those little green starts a fertile environment they returned the favor – by giving us a prosperous Thanksgiving bounty. I hope yours did.
Leading educators and economists recognize the value of applying those same commonsense principles to childhood education. What they, and millions of concerned and caring parents know, is that the more you invest in the education and enrichment of children the more you ensure continued, sustainable success of those kids and our shared local and global communities. Children are figuratively and literally the future of the world.
But There’s More…
There is obvious and serious financial impact for each one of us who pays taxes, due to a lack of investments in children, particularly when they are in our public schools. Those who budget for public schools and other child focused initiatives often cite a lack of funding. But Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. James Heckman says there is no lack of funding, only a notable lack of foresight. He and other researchers who analyze the intersection and correlation between education and economics explain why there is a lack of public money to do the right thing in the educational arena. The trouble is that America is spending way too much money dealing with a whole host of expensive problems that are a direct result of not paying enough attention to the needs of children in the first place. This is the conundrum. The longer society procrastinates before intervening in the life-cycle of a disadvantaged child, the more costly it is to solve the societal and economic problems that sprout up as a result of those disadvantages. The longer we wait, the more we will pay.
Plus, the interest paid on the debt we owe these kids is steep.
Academic studies that examine the rate of financial return on specific educational initiatives, like helping kids who struggle to learn to read, confirm that the return on early investments in kids are nothing short of phenomenal. What’s the dollar-for-dollar return on proven programs that impact childhood education? More than 16%, according to Minnesota based experts, Rolnick and Grunewald. I challenge you to generate returns like those from your financial investment portfolio. Savvy investors also know that the amount of time you have to invest in the market greatly effects your return, so there is no time like the present to start generating wonderful returns to our communities by heavily investing in the education, enrichment, and sustained support of our most valuable local and national asset, children.
Approximately half the variance in inequality in lifetime earnings is determined by the time a kid reaches the age of 18. It’s a whole lot cheaper – and smarter – to invest in young people, so that they grow up to be successful adults who contribute to our shared societal and economic outcomes in positive and measurable ways. Let’s give them a chance. Let’s tend to our seedlings now. Nourish and watch carefully and protect them from harm until they’re big enough to sustainably survive on their own and provide for others, and so goes the cycle.
I don’t know a whole lot about economics, I don’t know if economists know much about gardening. But my daddy was one of the most successful farmers in the two Carolinas, so I know a thing or two about planting, cultivation, and harvest. My money’s on initiatives like those promoted and made possible by OpenDoors of Asheville. They make sense, both from an everyday farmers’ perspective and from a Wall Street financial point of view. That’s my two cents. Please consider matching it with yours, and let’s change the world, one child at a time, starting right here in our glorious little hometown.