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Top 6 Myths About Early Education: #5

This week we’re debunking some of the most vicious myths about early childhood education. Come back tomorrow for a new fact check:

MYTH #1: The Achievement Gap is Not a Problem

MYTH #2: Early Learning is Ineffective

MYTH #3: Early Childhood Education is Too Expensive

MYTH #4: Successful Early Education Programs are Outliers

MYTH #5: The President’s Funding Plan for Early Education Won’t Work

Here’s a round-up of what we’ve covered so far this week in case you’re just joining: Sound research shows that early childhood education can be incredibly effective if implemented with care, will save hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars for society over the lifetime of a child, and these well-tested programs can help eliminate a pernicious achievement gap among some children.   

Sounds great, right? But what about implementation?

In order to reach the $78 billion dollars in funding needed to roll out universal pre-k over the next ten years, the President is proposing to increase the excise tax on cigarette purchases from $1.01 to $1.95 per pack. It’s a good solution but, just as with everything above, there are plenty of opponents on this point.

While we’ve focused on some outlandish myths here so far, a position against a tobacco tax can at least be rational. It can be tricky for the federal government to profit from an activity they also publicly oppose, and as reason dictates, if you tax something you’ll get less of it, putting long-term funding in jeopardy.

Yet, experience over the last two decades does not support the opponents’ case.

In the last 20 years there have been three increases in the cigarette tax (1993, 2003, and 2009), and with each increase, federal revenue has gone up. Every state that has increased its share of cigarette taxes has seen increased revenue, taking in over $25.7 billion dollars last year – with 14 states earmarking those tobacco taxes for education-related services.

While there is evidence to suggest that tobacco tax revenue levels out over time (as fewer people take up the habit), a Congressional Budget Office report suggests that the long term funding from a tax increase is incredibly stable and, beyond the 10-year window in the President’s budget, does a considerable job on its own to actually reduce the deficit (largely because less smoking means lower healthcare spending).

And to top it off, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, this increase would also save an estimated 626,000 premature deaths from tobacco use, reduce future health costs by $42 billion dollars, and prevent some 1.7 million kids from ever picking up a cigarette.

Here in California, 50 cents on every pack of cigarettes funds First Five California, or the California Children and Families Commission, which has been operating for the past 12 years in all 58 counties across the state to deliver on the promise of Proposition 10: to use every available method to ensure educational equity and school readiness for every child in the state.

First Five has in turn helped keep funding available for California’s Children’s Health insurance Program, and continues to invest in and promote early learning opportunities around the state.      

Add these examples to overall savings we’ve shown in Myth #3 and you have a significant amount of funding to make early education a real possibility for all children in the country.

Join us tomorrow for the final installment in our six-part series. Teaser: the final myth available to opponents of early childhood education is likely the most outlandish.  

Myth 6: A national effort is doomed to fail »


Follow Rey Fuentes on Twitter: @reynextgen

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