A Missing Ingredient in Closing Education Gap, Achieving Economic Growth

When I read the New York Times headline yesterday: “Closing the Education Gap Will Lift Economy, a Study Finds”  ( @ http://tinyurl.com/q2qphac)  I wondered if the newspaper would also be reporting “Watered plants grow taller and faster than those that aren’t.” or “Sunrise expected to be followed by sunset.”  It just seems so obvious.

But like many studies, the education report provided an important foundation of research and data to support what our common sense already tells us:  The better our kids do in school, the better off they will be and the stronger our economy, which in turn saves taxpayers money rather than costing them.

One purpose of the study by The Washington Center for Equitable Growth was to use a big attention-getting number to dramatize that not only would students benefit from closing the education gap, but all of us would prosper. The group found that bringing average American math and science scores up to the average for other industrialized nations would add 1.7% to America’s GDP over 35 years and could increase government revenue by $900 billion. 

The report includes recommendations on how to do improve academic achievement. But it neglected one of the most cost effective: ensuring that all students start their day with the school breakfast that is already bought and paid for with longstanding bipartisan federal support, but not easily accessed by millions of low income children.  A 2013 Deloitte report commissioned by Share Our Strength showed the powerful correlations between students starting their day with a nutritious school breakfast and math scores 17.5% higher than students who did not.

Our report coming out next month on Hunger in Our Schools should add even more valuable data bolstering the connection between feeding kids and academic achievement. Taking that one step farther as the Washington Center for Equitable Growth has done shows why every American should care about results whether they have children in school or not, are rich or poor; have experienced hunger or are fighting it.

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