What do we really value?

The current government budget debates in Illinois and nationally are rising to a fever pitch and the flurry of complex proposals and counter-proposals can be overwhelming. Before you burry your head in your hands, read NYT columnist David Brooks.

Here’s a key excerpt from his Jan. 3rd column:

“The size of government doesn’t tell you what you need to know; the social and moral content of government action does. The budgeteers and the technicians may not like it, but it’s the values inculcated by policies that matter most.

The best way to measure government is not by volume, but by what you might call the Achievement Test. Does a given policy arouse energy, foster skills, spur social mobility and help people transform their lives?”

He really nails it.

At Commons, we view our work in the same way. We should invest most heavily in the things that are truly transformative, the things that “spur social mobility”.

I am convinced that Commons’ early childhood education work is transformative. We don’t have the long-term scientific study yet, but there are just so many families who have used our pre-schools who become motivated to choose their child’s elementary school, who are seeking out summer enrichment and whose children are now in college – beyond the norm for our neighborhoods. This is why we have invested so heavily in this work – more than almost anything else.

In terms of state budget advocacy — transformation should be our primary message. Expand the transformative things like early education… investments in our future. Moderate the things that simply consume in the present.