Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning

The University of Mississippi School of Education

New Study Points to Importance of Early Education

Posted on: April 11th, 2017 by Cathy Grace

A report recently released by the Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child has dramatically revised the estimates of how quickly the baby brain develops new neural connections per second in the first few years of life. The Center previously found the brain makes 700-1,000 neural connections per second and has now revised the number to be 1 million connections per second.

This new finding supports the work of educators who have stressed the importance of positive stimulation for babies from the day they are born in supporting their healthy development. The speed occurs when conditions are optimum: a stable home, good health and nutrition, caring and responsive parents, high quality out-of-home care and a strong support system that lifts up parents and children as important contributors to the development of any community.

It appears the decision makers in Mississippi have let our babies and their families become pawns in their power games as evidenced by the last legislative session. Staggering cuts to the Mississippi Department of Health and Mental Health will impede state health professionals by reducing access to health services to all of us, including babies. A bill that would authorize Medicaid and the Department of Human Services to contract with a third party vendor to vet the eligibility of new beneficiaries and weed out people who were trying to qualify for services with both agencies was passed, with no statistics given on the current amount of funds lost from fraud. The cost for the third party contract is unknown, as well as if the current level of fraud justifies the funding. So, is the cost of the contract worth the “savings” to the state?

Meanwhile, those baby brains are developing (or not).

If this past legislative session is any indication, community support to families and children will be critical in attempting to close the gap in child well-being services and education now that multiple tax cuts will be enacted in 2018. According to the Clarion-Ledger, a report from the Legislative Budget Office indicates the impact of about half of the tax cuts passed is unknown. It is known that the development of the early months and years in a child’s life is critical for later school success and adult productivity. But, to grow a strong economy 20 years from now by investing in Mississippians involves decisions our elected officials in Jackson apparently are unwilling to make.

Meanwhile, baby brains are developing (or not).

Soon we will fund a special legislative session since all of the business of the state was not finished on time. This probably means more money flowing from the future advancement of the state to continuing the arguments of today. When a Nobel prize winning economist like Dr. James Heckman repeatedly states the best investment with the greatest return is early childhood education—especially in the care and development of babies—you would think someone in this state who maintains economic development is the solution to our problems would listen.

Wouldn’t you?

By Dr. Cathy Grace

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