A Retired Army Major Highlights the Importance of Head Start

A retired Army Major from Maine recently made the case before his state legislature for the need for early care and education programs such as Head Start to maintain a strong national defense. We found his insights to be very compelling, so we’re producing excerpts from a Letter to the Editor he wrote about his testimony here. You can see the full letter at this link.

I recently submitted testimony urging the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Health and Human Services to prioritize investments in early care and education, such as Head Start, to maintain a strong national defense.

If you aren’t familiar with the connection between early education and national defense, consider the fact that 71 percent of all young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24  are unable to join the military because they lack proper education, are overweight, or have a record of crime or drug abuse. A shrinking pool of eligible recruits is indeed a threat to our national security, and I am troubled by the likely impact that this will have on our future military preparedness.

One of the most important long-term investments that we can make for an effective fighting force is in the education of the American people. Lack of education is one of the main disqualifiers for military service. In many cases, completing high school is not enough. One study found that even among high school graduates in Maine, 19 percent who tried to join the U.S. Army scored too low on the military’s entrance exam to qualify.

Decades of research have shown that high-quality early education can help put more kids on the path to graduation and later success. Studies have affirmed that participants in quality early learning programs are more likely to show gains in early literacy and math and enter kindergarten ready to learn, less likely to be held back in school, more likely to graduate from high school, and less likely to engage in criminal activity later in life.

That is why I support greater investments that help more at-risk children cultivate the skills they need to succeed later in life, including a career in the military should they choose that path.

Major General Bill Libby
U.S. Army, retired
Old Orchard Beach