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U.S. needs serious early-education programs to help close achievement gap

Half a century after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, thousands of people listened at the Lincoln Memorial, as King’s successors spoke of the need to eliminate racial bias.

I suggest that the recently reported racial education achievement gap and the high crime rate in young black males are not the result of racial bias. They are income-level issues.

More racial equality marches on Washington will not help this serious problem.  Disadvantaged minority youths, usually from lower-income families, enter school lacking language and learning skills. They come from homes without books or computers, and where English may be poorly spoken. They enter elementary school unable to compete, and they may eventually lash out, or more likely, drop out.

It is time for serious early education programs that could help these young people. A decade ago, studies cited by Arthur Rolnick and Rob Grunewald of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve showed returns ranging from $3 to $17 for every dollar invested in early-childhood education. The returns come in the form of less crime, fewer welfare payments and better-trained workers. There are many current government spending programs that should rank behind investments in our youth.

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