DEAR EDITOR:

During my 34-year career in the U.S. Navy, culminating as a rear admiral, I had the privilege of working with and commanding some of the most talented young people our country has to offer.

Historically, many of America’s young adults have benefited from serving their country, including access to veteran education benefits. That’s why it is such a shame that 73 percent of Georgia youth are foreclosed from that opportunity because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a record of crime or drug use.

If we do not address this trend, we will not have a sufficient pool of talented recruits to serve in our military in the future. The best way to address these disqualifiers is to start early. Research shows that high-quality child care and pre-K programs can help address the educational deficits, health issues and behavior problems that prevent Georgia youth from qualifying for military service.

For example, a long-term study of more than 1,300 children found that children in higher-quality child care were better prepared for school at age 4 compared to children in lower-quality child care. At age 15, they were still performing slightly above their peers and had significantly lower levels of behavior problems.

Other long-term studies of high-quality pre-K have shown that participating children are more likely to graduate from high school and stay away from crime.

Despite all of these benefits, federal funding for critical early childhood programs, such as the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start and Early Head Start, is jeopardized by the lack of a federal budget agreement.

The previous two-year budget deal that Congress passed provided key new investments in a balanced manner that strengthened both defense and non-defense discretionary programs. Without a new budget deal, current law will force spending cuts that will cripple federal programs and reduce essential early childhood services.

I urge U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-Georgia) and U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-7th District), as Budget Committee members, to help craft a new, bipartisan budget agreement to ensure our national security today and in the years to come.

Casey Coane

Woodstock

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