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Want a Better America? The First 2,000 Days of Life Matters Most

The most important investment we can make as a country is in the healthy development of our next generation.

Consider this: In the time it takes children to celebrate their first five birthdays, nearly 90 percent of physical brain development occurs. For the average 3-year-old, that means 700 new synapses are formed every single second. This critical development depends on active stimulation, interaction and skill development. We know that children who don't receive such developmental supports grow up without the strong foundation of knowledge and character skills necessary for success in school, career and life.

There is no question that we know more about children's brain development—and how best to make sure it is a success. Unfortunately, government has failed to keep pace and the result is a missed opportunity for too many disadvantaged children and our nation as a whole.

Despite research to show that the quality of their first 2,000 days greatly influences the outcomes of their adult lives, partisanship and gridlock have kept policymakers from supporting the necessary investments in our youngest and most disadvantaged.

Fortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee signaled that the tide might be changing. If so, it is a huge win for children and their families. Last week, the Committee approved an increase of $2.56 billion for early childhood education, providing an additional $1.6 billion to Early Head Start, $750 million to Preschool Development Grants, $176 million to the Child Care Development Fund and $21 million to statewide early intervention systems in Fiscal Year 2014.

The increase is unprecedented and comes as a result of hard work and dedication by leaders of the early childhood community and a long list of partners in government, economics, law enforcement and business. Certainly, it reflects a growing recognition of the benefits of high-quality early childhood education, including how investments in early learning during a child’s first 2,000 days puts them on a path to success as adults.

The focus is no longer whether we should invest in early childhood education, but how best to do it. And politics need not stand in the way of progress.

Our need for quality early childhood is increasingly a universal concern and unlike other hot button education issues, it is met with very little polarization. The issue is supported by Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, military officials, governors of red and blue states, economists and even members of the Federal Reserve. More and more we are seeing leaders across the country—in states like Iowa, Missouri, California, Vermont and West Virginia—taking up the drumbeat for early learning and spreading the message that the most important investment we can make as a country is in the healthy development of our next generation.

Click here to add joining the movement and signing the petition to improve early childhood programs to your GOOD "to-do" list.

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