In a brilliant essay in the Los Angeles Times, Susan Ochshorn says that the United States is squandering its future by not investing in the well-being of children.

Ochshorn, an advocate for early childhood education, cites an Urban Institute study showing that “federal spending on children fell by $2 billion from 2010 to 2011, the first dip in 30 years. The children’s share of the budget pie was reduced from 10.7% to 10.4%. By 2022, the children’s portion of the budget is expected to drop to 8% and their share of GDP is expected to drop from 2.5% to 1.9%, which will include significant cuts in early care and education. With the Census Bureau reporting nearly 25% of the nation’s children younger than age 6 in poverty, this is not good news.”

It is a cliche to say that “children are our future,” but it is actually true. Children are our future, and if we neglect their basic needs, we sacrifice the future.

Ochshorn writes: “We now know more than ever about how to nurture human capital, with eye-popping technology offering graphic evidence of the rapid pace and complexity of brain development in the first years of life. The bottom line is that kids need time for sensitive, stimulating interactions with adults to promote growth, resilience and mastery, the foundations for their healthy development and academic success. They need access to good healthcare and nutrition, and high-quality early learning settings, not to mention viable communities invested in their well-being.”

Her article cites numerous authoritative sources to demonstrate one basic fact: We are not investing in the well-being of children. Instead, we are spending more and more to test them and to hold their teachers accountable. This is not good social policy. This is criminal neglect.