November 24, 2014

Group says state is “shortchanging” children in spending on early education

The latest report from a public policy research group concerning the budget choices of state lawmakers compares the funding of early childhood education programs with spending on tax breaks for businesses. Lily French authored the report for the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.

“What we found is that while there is a substantial amount of evidence that the public benefits from investigating in the first 2,000 days of a child’s life, Iowa is spending less for early care and education relative to other economic development spending. That amount is small and more concerning…it’s been declining in recent years,” French said.

The trend is “shortchanging” children, according to French. She noticed business tax credits from the state have more than doubled in the last seven years. “The state of Iowa will either lose or give away over $220 million to businesses in the next fiscal year on the grounds of economic development and trying to improve our state’s prosperity – without the evidence of long-term success and rewards that is actually documented in investments in early childhood education programs,” French said.

As a comparison, Early Childhood Iowa School Ready grants have never reached $50 million per year, according to French. Iowa Policy Project Executive Director David Osterberg said he’s baffled by lawmakers willingness to award more business tax credits while cutting funds to early childhood education programs.

“You have to tell me why giving a tax credit to McDonalds is going to do anything to McDonalds locations in the state of Iowa. And yet that just goes forward as ‘sure, that must be economic development,'” Osterberg said. “Here we have great stuff (early childhood education) that is perfectly economic development – and good for kids and families – and that gets strangled.”