Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, says we have historically not seen an investment in pre-K because “four- year olds don’t vote, don’t have lobbyists, they don’t have PACs.” (WashingtonPostLive Production/Washington Post Live)

Arne Duncan

U.S. secretary of education

There is no better investment we can make than in high-quality early childhood education. [Investing more in it] is the right thing to do from an economic standpoint, but more importantly to me, this is the right thing to do from a human potential standpoint.

We’ve seen lots of longitudinal studies [showing a correlation between high-quality preschool and] higher graduation rates, higher college-going rates, lower rates of teenage pregnancies, lower rates of dropouts, lower rates of incarceration long-term, higher rates of employment.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says cuts don’t give American children a level playing field to compete in a globally competitive economy. (WashingtonPostLive Production/Washington Post Live)

Not every study is going to show you the exact same thing. But I think fairly conservative estimates by folks like James Heckman, who’s a lot smarter than I, he’s a Nobel Prize-winning economist, show a return of at least 7 to 1 in our investment. In tough economic times like these, when I think all of us in government are rightfully challenged to say: Every dollar you are spending, what are the benefits for taxpayers, for the country?

Two- and 3- and 4-year-olds don’t vote; they don’t have lobbyists; they don’t have PACs. But for all the challenges, for all the dysfunction we see now in Washington, I’m actually pretty hopeful [that Congress will fund expanding pre-K].

Our children here in America are as smart, talented, committed, creative, entrepreneurial as children anywhere in the world. But we have to give them a level playing field on which to compete in a globally competitive economy. And I promise you that Singapore, South Korea, India and China, their educational strategy is not sequestration.

For Secretary Duncan’s full bio, click here.