According to a report by Idaho Voices for Children, almost half of Idaho schoolchildren are ready to learn to read by kindergarten.
The report, "Building Strong Foundations," outlines the argument for a statewide pre-K program that includes introductions to science, technology, engineering and mathematical understanding—commonly known as STEM—as well as reading and language skills. It concludes that for every $1 spent on learning for children between the ages of 3 and 5, taxpayers save $7-$13 in social service and juvenile justice costs, with the average annual cost of incarcerating a single juvenile in a level 4 facility being approximately $77,953.
Early education has also been linked to improved economic outcomes—particularly among children from lower income families. According to the American Community Survey, updated in 2013, 54 percent of Idaho children under the age of 6 live in low-income homes.
"The longer society waits to intervene in the life cycle of a disadvantaged child, the more costly it is to remediate the disadvantage," wrote University of Chicago economist James Heckman in the report.
The report will be officially released by Idaho Voices for Children and a collaboration of other children's organizations on Early Learning Legislative Day at the Idaho Statehouse Feb. 10 from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.