Return on Investment Facts
Cost-benefit analyses of high-quality preschool show it generates $5 to $17 for every dollar spent, yielding significant dividends in the form of government savings on welfare, education and criminal justice and increased earnings for participants.
Here in Washington, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy conservatively estimated that for every child we put through ECEAP or Head Start ($7420/year) we see a return of $26,480.
While 85% of a child’s core brain structure is formed by age three, less than 3% of public investment in education and child development occurs during that period.
In Washington State, the per-age/grade public investment between the ages of 0 and 5 is $13.5 million, compared with $530 million per age/grade for school-aged children.
Early learning is a powerful economic development tool – high-quality pre-K programs can increase high school graduation rates by 10 to 20%.
A 2009 study found that male dropouts were 47 percent more likely than their peers to be incarcerated, and 54 percent of dropouts ages 16 to 24 were likely to be unemployed (vs. 13 percent for college graduates). The cost over the working life of each high school dropout is estimated at $292,000.
Regardless of family income or program duration, the earnings-related benefits alone of a high-quality pre-K program outweigh the costs by 3 to 1 or 4 to 1.
Add other measures beyond future earnings (special ed savings, reduction in grade retention, reduction in criminal justice costs) and the benefits are likely higher, particularly for disadvantaged children.
Early dental prevention efforts save taxpayers money.
Through ABCD and other efforts, untreated decay among low-income preschoolers in Head Start and ECEAP was cut in half in the last 5 years from 26% in 2005 to 13% in 2010. Projected Medicaid treatment costs avoided are nearly $525 per child.
Providing high quality preschool for all children who want it in Washington could realize savings of up to $120 million each year in special education costs alone.
When you factor in the cost of grade retention, remediation, and other K-12 costs, the savings could reach $240 million a year.