Our leaders in Washington face tough budget issues ("Obama budget would have big impact in MD," April 11). But one proposal we should all agree on is for targeted investments in local pre-kindergarten learning. As a grandfather, I support giving America's children a better educational start. As a retired Army general, I see this as a sound investment in making our next generation more competitive and contributing to our national security.

The defense department estimates that 75 percent of all Americans age 17-24 are unable to join the military. Obstacles include health, obesity, criminal or mental issues.

Poor educational achievement is a key disqualifier. One in five students nationwide fail to graduate on time; among those who do, more than 20 percent cannot score high enough on the military's math, literacy and problem-solving exam. We must reverse this alarming trend.

High-quality pre-kindergarten can increase graduation rates, cut crime and reduce childhood obesity. Research studies show that these programs average a net return of $15,000 for each child served.

The 350 retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness support quality early learning to help children succeed in reaching their dreams: college, business, or a career in our all-volunteer military.

This isn't a conservative or liberal debate. It's plain common sense.

Mark Hertling, Orlando, Fla.

The writer is a retired lieutenant general for the U.S. Army.

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