What is the value of a human life? Conservative right to lifers argue that the value of life is paramount to all other considerations. Yet that conviction wanes when dollar signs enter the mix. Tea party supporters and constitutional purists would like to see most government spending eradicated, ignoring the fact that some financial investments pay long term dividends, and that goes for humanitarian investments as much as for business ones.
Take the case of early child hood education and day care programs for impoverished Americans. They can be expensive! The Head Start program spends more than $7,000 per child per year, according to AEI (American Enterprise Institute). That sounds like a lot until you compare it to the average cost for day care in the U.S., which is $7,332 per child.
For essentially the same money a Head Start program provides day care and after school care, but may also offer training opportunities for parents, clothing (through donations) and support for parents working toward their GED. Head Start provides medical screenings and vaccinations, which reduce Medicaid expenses by $232 per family annually, according to PolitiFact. They support families by sponsoring community activities, and coordinating other social services for participants.
Now here's the best part. For every $1 that is spent on programs like Head Start, the government realizes $10 in savings down the road, according to Miriam Rollin, National Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
The more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors, behind the nonprofit are spreading the word that children who are well cared for, by parents who have the knowledge and support necessary to fulfill their responsibilities, are less likely to commit crimes as adults.
Studies have found that not only are Head Start participants less likely to end up in prison as adults, they have higher high school graduation rates, and earn more. In other words these programs are helping kids at risk of becoming a burden to society grow into productive, well-adjusted citizens.
The number of children in need of these services is on the rise. According to PR Newswire, "for the first time over 25 percent of children under 6 live in poverty."
A lot of attention has been paid to the economic burden the deficit puts on future generations. But we will be leaving our children more than just an economy, we will be leaving a society, as well. By supporting, and even expanding, programs like Head Start, we can reduce the social problems they will face as adults, and ensure that all our children are well prepared to inherit stewardship of this country.