As I observed the media coverage commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, I reflected on the massive military and civilian mobilization that required and wondered if such an effort would be possible today.
Nationally, 71% of young Americans are ineligible to serve. These high ineligibility rates are a major reason why the Army, the largest military service, missed its annual recruitment goal last year for the first time in over a decade.
Specifically, high-quality early learning builds a solid foundation for the next generation to develop in mind, body and character so they can succeed at whatever career path they choose, including military service.
Studies show that quality early education programs can prepare children to start school ready to learn, improve student performance, boost graduation rates, deter youth from crime, and even reduce obesity rates by instilling healthy eating and exercise habits at a young age. The data from studies proves this: Participants in the Tulsa, Oklahoma Head Start program had higher achievement scores in math in seventh grade, compared with non-participants.
A long-term study of the Chicago Child–Parent Centers program reported a 29 percent increase in high school graduation rates among its participants and children not served by the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18. Despite these benefits, 63% of 4-year-olds and 88% of 3-year-olds in Alabama are not enrolled in public early childhood programs, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
For these reasons, I’m pleased that Congressional leaders recently began discussing a two-year federal budget. This discussion is important because such a budget not only provides vital funding for our military installations across Alabama, but also supports non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs, ensuring our future national security.
These crucial NDD programs include Head Start and Early Head Start that help children from low-income families access early learning opportunities, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), helping low-income families afford child care. Research shows that high-quality child care, combined with high-quality preschool, has a significant, game-changing impact on academic achievement.
Last year, Congress passed a bipartisan, two-year budget agreement, providing key new investments for important programs, and did so in a balanced manner, strengthening both defense and NDD activities. I strongly urge (and ask that you urge) Rep.
Mo Brooks (R-AL 5th District), who represents us and serves on the House Armed Services Committee, along with our entire Alabama delegation, to follow this example for the coming fiscal years and avoid the drastic impacts of sequestration, while maintaining a balanced approach to setting discretionary budget levels.
Vincent Boles, who lives in Madison, is a retired U.S.
Army Major General and member of Mission: Readiness, an organization of 750 retired admirals and generals strengthening national security by ensuring kids stay in school, stay fit, and stay out of trouble so they are eligible for military service or any other career path.