Maj. Gen. Bill Libby’s op-ed on the importance of investing in quality early education (“Maine Voices: Lack of early education funding is becoming a national security issue,” March 3) provided spot-on analysis of why backing high-quality pre-K is so crucial for national security – and for society.

But it isn’t just the military that presents a compelling case for these investments. My background is in business, and as an officer of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, I understand that supporting quality early childhood education is a business imperative.

Our state’s business leaders are convinced that high-quality early education programs, including Head Start, are vital first steps on the road to academic success, particularly for Maine’s at-risk kids. Helping to ensure that children arrive in kindergarten “ready to learn,” possessing the early math, reading and social-emotional skills to succeed, is a critical investment in both the people of Maine and our economy.

Research spotlighted by the nonpartisan business-leader group ReadyNation shows why: Kids who participate in high-quality early learning programs are 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school, 74 percent more likely to hold a skilled job, and earn 44 percent more as adults, compared to children who don’t participate.

Not only do these programs help us build the skilled workforce we need today and tomorrow, they also make fiscal sense as well. More research from ReadyNation shows that high-quality early childhood programs create a net benefit to society of about $29,000 for every child served. That savings comes from things like reduced need for special education, fewer kids repeating grades, better on-time graduation rates and even crime reduction.

I join Maj. Gen. Libby in urging our Legislature not only to maintain, but also to increase funding for quality early education, including Head Start.

Ben Gilman

senior government relations specialist, Maine State Chamber of Commerce; member, ReadyNation

Gorham