Why Businesses Need to Tackle the Education Gap

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good on LinkedIn: Business needs to invest in the class of 2033
Jul 9, 2019 10:15 AM ET
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Editor's note: Follow Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good on LinkedIn, where this article first appeared. LinkedIn members can read, like, share and comment on Good's posts.

Bill Gates once said that the first five years of a child’s life have a lot to do with how the next 80 will turn out. I couldn’t agree more.

Early childhood education doesn’t drive cable news. It won’t appear in your Instagram feed. Yet it’s critically important to the future of our country. What happens to the development of a child’s brain during the first five years is unparalleled later in life. This window is critical to their future success as adults.

And, as our economy evolves and becomes more digitized and competitive, we – from local governments to corporations – must do more to ensure we have a strong workforce with the necessary skills to compete and succeed against our global competitors. 

If we’re serious about spurring economic growth and creating opportunity for everyone, then investing in children’s earliest years must be part of the plan.

The rise of public-private partnerships
The responsibility to give our children the best start cannot fall solely to parents or government. Business can be part of the solution, forging public-private partnerships to fund important programs. And as the public sector seeks to scale its efforts to reach more children, the impact of these partnerships increases.

We’ve seen that play out in Charlotte – my company’s headquarters city – as we join others in the business community to support a new public-private partnership to give every child a chance.

Several years ago, a study found Charlotte ranked 50th out of the country’s largest 50 cities on economic opportunity for children born in low-income communities. In response, community leaders formed the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, which issued a report citing access to affordable early child care and quality pre-kindergarten education as a key determinant of upward mobility. Next, the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council (CELC) – a group of local business leaders – funded a study to find ways to give significantly more children access to early childhood education.

The report and study led the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners to reduce the childcare subsidy waitlist and launch the MECK Pre-K initiative, which aims to increase access to high-quality education to all children under the age of 5.

Making an impact in our communities
Investing in education has been a cornerstone initiative for Duke Energy since our founding. We’re continuing this legacy by contributing a multiyear, $1 million grant to the MECK Pre-K initiative, joining other local companies.

While I see the significant need in Charlotte, this gap extends to many cities, counties and states across the nation. Creative efforts to improve access to pre-K initiatives through public and private funding are already making a notable impact in several cities, including Cincinnati, San Antonio and Washington, D.C.

I hope many more businesses will invest in their community’s children, no matter where they reside – our future depends on it.