As Senator Patty Murray highlighted in her speech at the Center for American Progress, expanding access to early childhood education is vital to ensuring the long-term success of our nation. As nations such as India and China set lofty goals of radically increasing enrollment in preschool and ramp up their funding for early childhood education, our nation has failed to act on early childhood education. As a result, we will continue to miss out on the positive impacts of this long-term investment.

Expanding access to early childhood education has the ability to assist large swaths of families and communities across the nation. It reduces inequality, encourages broad based economic growth, and increases academic achievement.

However, recent budget debates have overlooked the positive implications of this policy. Rather than investing in our youth and promoting the expansion of early childhood education, budget debates have focused on averting manufactured crises. As a result, sequestration has led to devastating cuts to Head Start, while failure to act on the long term interest of the country means Congress has failed to greatly expand access to high quality early childhood education programs.

Further investments in early childhood education are clearly needed. In order to stay globally competitive, policymakers will have to refocus their priorities to support children. Early learning is essential for every child and to the growth of our nation.

Anthony Eleftherion is a First Focus Intern Associate