Civic, corporate and military leaders unite in support of early learning

“The bottom line is that investing in early learning is not optional. We MUST do it. Our K-12 system will never produce the graduates we all want if we don’t put significant resources toward children long before they set foot in kindergarten.”
Keynote Speaker Rear Admiral Casey W. Coane

More than 850 friends and funders of the Ounce heard this call to action from guest speaker Rear Admiral Casey W. Coane during our It’s Good Business to Invest in Young Children Annual Luncheon on May 6, 2014.

RADM Coane’s words and his work with Mission Readiness, the nonpartisan national security organization of senior retired military leaders calling for smart investments in America’s children, moved attendees to share his passion for early education.  RADM Coane positioned high-quality early learning as an imperative for our country’s economic stability and national security. He explained that it is the first step to ensuring that young adults are prepared for the workforce or the military.

“Seventy-five percent of America’s young adults can’t qualify to serve their nation,” he said.
“They also can’t qualify for many…highly skilled and high-paid jobs. And education is the primary reason for that.”

“The military, like private industry is a consumer of the product of our public education system,” he continued. “And that links our future in national defense to our public schools.”

The Rear Admiral’s remarks echoed the message of this year’s Annual Luncheon corporate chair Rick Waddell, chairman and CEO of Northern Trust, who urged the business community to see early education as a long-term investment in our workforce. “As the work of the late Nobel prize-winning economist, Gary Becker, underscored, we’re not funding early childhood education because we plan to hire a six-year old tomorrow,” he said, “but because over a period of time, the compound interest that will accrue by getting more kids on the right track will return a more qualified, creative and productive workforce.”

Attendees were perhaps most moved by the words of Taliah Carter, the parent of an Educare Chicago alumnus. Her son, Jeremiah, who happens to have Down’s syndrome, started at Educare at 18 months of age, and he is now in the 3rd grade.

“My son is an example of the importance of early childhood education and school readiness, especially for children with special needs,” she said. “As a parent, my involvement with Educare has allowed me to engage and interact with my son on parenting levels that I never could have dreamed of, such as helping him write his first book.”