Supporting pre-K is a wise, long-term investment for Georgia

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There has been an uneven spotlight on our youngest learners recently. First, leaders around the state visited pre-kindergarten programs to read to 4-year-olds as part of Georgia Pre-K Week 2013 in September. Then, some of these very children were literally furloughed as their school closed for a day – a direct result of the shutdown of the federal government. The schools re-opened, temporarily funded by a philanthropist.

These children and the programs that launch their education deserve more than a fleeting spotlight. Supporting these young learners will have a long-term impact on their future success.

PRE-K IS A CRITICAL milestone in a child’s education – confirmation that Georgia’s investments in pre-K education are a step in the right direction. And while children depend on parents, caregivers and educators for support, early success requires a commitment from us all. Community leaders, business leaders and leaders in local, state and federal government all play important roles in providing the foundation necessary to position children for a lifetime of success.

Why is early learning so important? Research repeatedly confirms that investing in early childhood education for all children – especially disadvantaged children – can prevent an achievement gap later by providing children with the early knowledge and skills they need to do well in school. The achievement gap will never close unless we open the doors of opportunity earlier to the 216,856 children of Georgia’s hard-working but low-income families who need it most. National statistics show that 64 percent of all children younger than age 6 have all parents in the workforce, suggesting that approximately 500,000 Georgia children from birth to age 5 need care while parents work.

Consider these additional statistics:

• By age 4, children of college-educated families have heard 32 million more words spoken than children of families on welfare.

• By age 3, low-income children know 500 words, working-class children know 750, and high-income children know 1,100.

Policymakers have been struggling for years to close the achievement gap in K-12 education. There have been successes, but not nearly dramatic or fast enough. It is important to close the achievement gap early to foster greater learning and financial savings. Georgia is one of a handful of states that is working to prevent this gap with investments in quality early childhood education.

MEDICAL AND developmental science tells us that education starts at birth, not at kindergarten. From infancy to toddlerhood, children build thinking and social skills from interaction and structured and unstructured early learning. Those who have quality early learning experiences through their parents, caregivers and professional teachers come to kindergarten with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in both school and life. Children who don’t have those experiences arrive far behind their peers in vocabulary, knowledge and key learning abilities such as impulse control, attentiveness, persistence and sociability.

As a result, the education and support a child receives in the earliest years – from birth to age 5 – have a tremendous effect on the ability to do well in school. For example, studies of children who enrolled in high-quality early education programs found that these children had higher reading and math scores, and were more likely to continue to post-secondary education. Early education also helps children develop the character skills they will need as adults to be valuable in the 21st-century workforce.

Georgia is fast becoming a model for the country, with its universal pre-K, public quality rating system for child care, and executive agency with a laser focus on the education of young children. Federal investments, starting with Head Start in 1965, have increased in the 1990s and 2000s as the impact of early learning became clearer. More recently, states have risen to the challenge of organizing public and private resources, family support and connections to K-12 that must work together to strengthen child development and academic success.

A true, national conversation about early childhood education is evolving. Groups as varied as chambers of commerce, retired military, K-12 educators and foundations are lifting their voices with obvious advocates – pediatricians, child care providers, parents and grandparents – to call for greater investment in young children.

Now is a good time to make some noise. Sequestration cuts and other budget limitations mean that thousands of children will not get the critical support they need for a strong start in school and life. Georgia’s slow economic recovery makes it especially tough to take the loss of funding that contributes to the loss of nearly 100 classrooms for Head Start children and cuts in child care subsidies that shut another 100 classrooms.

THE CONVERSATION is being heard in Congress as well. Legislation is under consideration to make pre-K available to every child in the country, to serve more children younger than 3 years old, and to foster good parenting among high-risk families. Such support is essential for ensuring that all children in every state have a fair chance for success.

Here in Georgia, we have the experience, leadership and demonstrated expertise that can leverage new resources quickly. We must remember that supporting these young learners is a responsibility we all share – one that will produce long-term benefits for us all.

(The writer – director of athletics at Georgia Regents University – is a board member of Voices for Georgia’s Children, a nonprofit child policy and advocacy organization.)

Comments (19) Add comment
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agustinian
723
Points
agustinian 10/27/13 - 06:43 am
8
2
Sounds good -- but not true

Mayor Young writes an article about government interfering were they don't belong. This author writes article that says it's government's job to babysit children so parents can work? Really? I don't think so.

Now for the biggest misstatement, Pre-K programs do not live up to their promise. By 3rd grade any improvement in the basic skills of math and reading and verbalization is gone. There is no measurable difference between pre-K children and those who didn't attend.

So why are we doing this? Because adults have children when they can't afford them, or without the parents getting married, or the father deciding he would rather go fishin' instead of hangin' around.

The secret of success in school and education is having a set of parents at home motivating and encouraging their children in pursuit of learning. There is no sugar-coating it. All the government sponsored programs in the world "ain't" gonna change that inconvenient truth.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 10/27/13 - 06:56 am
6
2
Who is going to pay for it??

Who is going to pay for it?? The more of my hard earned money that is taken away to fund these programs the less I have to do things for my own child. We can't keep providing everything to people who most likely already get peach care for their kids, free lunch at school, and food stamps. It cost nothing to go to the library to check out books and even DVDs that foster learning. It cost very little to buy early learning resource books and other learning material for your children. The problem is they are so dependent on working people like me paying for free child care (headstart) and early learning opportunities that are NOT available to all children that they figure why should we. When headstart and free lunch is provided to all children then I may feel better about it. But to continue to throw money at a chosen few who already get mounds of assistance is just plain unfair.

ymnbde
10752
Points
ymnbde 10/27/13 - 08:16 am
5
0
hey Virginia, here's your Santa Claus

school choice is the only way
to make education work
centrally controlled government education is a failure
rich people have school choice, why not the poor?

deestafford
32185
Points
deestafford 10/27/13 - 08:21 am
5
2
Programs such as Head Start are a waste of money.

Study after study has shown that after the third grade one cannot tell who attended Head Start and who didn't. But, that doesn't stop the politicians and advocates from screaming anytime one talks about cutting the program. It is a baby sitting for "poor" people who shouldn't have had children they can support.

What is the fact based evidence of the pre-K students doing better than those who didn't attend when studied after the third grade. I think the home environment as alluded to with the difference in vocabulary is the key and not a jazzed up baby sitting program. Is this just not another example of government control?

If the government is so concerned why not just snatch the kids away from the poor and let the government raise them? Cut out the middle man--the parents.

Where are the hard facts which show we are getting the proper bang for our hard earned bucks?

avidreader
3567
Points
avidreader 10/27/13 - 09:03 am
5
2
Just a Thought!

God bless the poverty-stricken, but the financial resources for public education are slowly dwindling, especially in our community. Many two-parent families are fleeing our county and staking their educational claims in Columbia county. I'm not saying that we abandon the poor, but pre-K concepts can easily be blended into the Kindergarten curriculum and save a ton of money.

Concerning the poverty-stricken, is it our job to domesticate or educate? The answer is obvious, but . . . Many parents remain aloof in our educational system, and this is not going to change unless dire poverty ceases to be an issue. Pre-K is a nice gesture, but not the solution to our problem. Lack of parental guidance is a crutch, and we continue to bolster its support. It's time to re-examine our values and common sense and stop offering excuses.

Mr. Bryant, thank you for caring, and I say this with sincerity, but there are many problems in education that require more attention than Pre-K programs.

laro247
132
Points
laro247 10/27/13 - 10:44 am
5
2
Yea, might as well start

Yea, might as well start institutionalizing your children as soon as possible. You know, so that they won't put any fuss about government running every facet of their lives. The only reason to turn your children over to government at the age of four, is bacause you have produced children you cannot afford. Granted with an ever expanding government on all levelsl, affording children will soon be a luxury.

dichotomy
37614
Points
dichotomy 10/27/13 - 11:20 am
5
2
Head Start/Pre-K is nothing

Head Start/Pre-K is nothing more than taxpayer provided babysitting service. At the 3rd grade there is no performance difference between those kids who attended pre-K and those who did not. It is all another "it's for the children" looting of the taxpayer's money for an unnecessary, failed program. Do-gooders throwing someone else's money at a solution still looking for a problem.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 10/27/13 - 02:38 pm
3
2
Bryant said, "PRE-K IS A
Unpublished

Bryant said, "PRE-K IS A CRITICAL milestone in a child’s education – confirmation that Georgia’s investments in pre-K education are a step in the right direction."
The real sad part is Bryant really believes this BS.

KSL
144554
Points
KSL 10/27/13 - 05:04 pm
3
5
Gee, I didnt get to go to

Gee, I didnt get to go to even kindergarten. And I was valedictorian of my high school and attended an Ivy League school.

allhans
24964
Points
allhans 10/27/13 - 06:13 pm
5
0
Most of us never attended

Most of us never attended kindergarten. My children, now in their forties, had K after dinner at home on the kitchen table..

happychimer
19565
Points
happychimer 10/27/13 - 06:38 pm
1
4
I don't understand why anyone

I don't understand why anyone would want to deny a child education. Kids are anxious to learn, so give them a chance to learn all they can. We give loads of money to other countries and fight stupid wars, but you don't want to help our children learn. I have a granddaughter who will be going to Pre-K next year. She can hardly wait to go to school with her brother and sister,who also went to Pre-K.

KSL
144554
Points
KSL 10/27/13 - 06:55 pm
3
2
Oh, I support education

I just hate to see taxpayer money wasted on kids who don't finish high school or really have no interest in learning what they need to know.

Both of OUR children went to pre-pre k, pre k and kindergarten, all private. That means we paid for it. And it was not wasted on them.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 10/27/13 - 07:49 pm
2
3
happychimer said, "I have a
Unpublished

happychimer said, "I have a granddaughter who will be going to Pre-K next year. She can hardly wait to go to school with her brother and sister,who also went to Pre-K."
There are lot of private Pre-K schools around. Why don't you or the parents pay for her to go to one of them. I really don't want to help pay for your granddaughter to go to Pre-K just because she can hardly wait.

KSL
144554
Points
KSL 10/27/13 - 07:24 pm
2
1
I would think that if parents

I would think that if parents or grandparents paid out for the beginning of their children's education, they would have more interest in the succesful outcome of the children's education.

happychimer
19565
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happychimer 10/27/13 - 08:25 pm
0
2
teaparty I don't want to pay

teaparty I don't want to pay for wars. I don't want to pay for money to right wing Repubs who make stupid decisions. My grandkids go to public school. You want to close public schools? That won't happen anytime soon.We don't have the extra money to send them to private school,and neither do their parents. They both work and it takes both working to make ends meet. My husband and I have raised our kids, and they are on their own. If we had not taught them to take care of themselves, they would be dependent on us. We are not rolling in money,but we are rich in what matters most in life.

happychimer
19565
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happychimer 10/27/13 - 08:32 pm
0
2
We don't get to pick and

We don't get to pick and choose what programs we pay for.I don't like my tax money paying for wars. I have no control over that. My granddaughter will be in public Pre-K next year because her parents say so, and there is nothing you can do about that. OMG! A beautiful little girl is going to school next year and someone wants to deny her that. pitiful!

happychimer
19565
Points
happychimer 10/27/13 - 08:38 pm
0
2
I have 8 grandkids and none

I have 8 grandkids and none have gone to private school. One is in the military, and another is a college student. If you can send your kids or grandkids to private school, then that is good. I have nothing against private schools. But don't trash those who send their kids to public school.Education is very important.

happychimer
19565
Points
happychimer 10/27/13 - 08:47 pm
0
1
teaparty you don't want kids

teaparty you don't want kids to want to go to school? My granddaughter can hardly wait to go to school.She plays school with her brother and sister,and both are very good students.The boy makes good grades, never gets in trouble at school, plays a musical instrument, is in boy scouts and student council .He is 10.His sister is a straight A student and no trouble at school.She is also in scouts. They are both good role models for their little sister. I really feel sorry for those who have such ill feelings about helping children. Not everyone can afford private school. Y'all have a good night.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 10/28/13 - 04:51 pm
1
0
Happy chimer Prek is not as

Happy chimer Prek is not as big an issue with me as headstart is. Only children with parents in a certain income bracket can attend! My child is currently in PreK and he is far more advanced than the kids in his class. Why because he has been read to at home and provided with learning opportunities. It is all about the parents not the school system. Sadly too many people are lazy and take no interest in their children's education.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 10/28/13 - 05:48 am
1
1
happychimer said, 'teaparty
Unpublished

happychimer said, 'teaparty you don't want kids to want to go to school?"
Pre-K is nothing but baby sitting.

dichotomy
37614
Points
dichotomy 10/28/13 - 01:16 pm
1
0
Statistics say that it does

Statistics say that it does not improve the education level of the children if compared at the 3rd grade level. It is a nice to have program that serves not purpose but to be a babysitting service at the taxpayer's expense. Show me data that proves it dramatically improves overall education and I will reconsider. The data is just not there.

I went to a church sponsored Kindergarten when I was young but only because, at that time, the cost of Kindergarten was about the same as paying a babysitter....as it should be. About the only things I can say I learned for sure was that I hated green peas and afternoon naps.

Darby
29473
Points
Darby 10/30/13 - 11:30 am
1
0
"We give loads of money to other countries

and fight stupid wars, but you don't want to help our children learn."

.
It's your prerogative to use the phrase "stupid wars", but that doesn't make it so.

Some may be stupid but I'm pretty certain that you aren't qualified to make that kind of national defense determination.

As for "you don't want to help our children learn". Of course we do. You do and so do I. You solution is to throw tax money at what you see as a "problem".

It's just that I have a much better concept about how to solve that "problem". Mine begins with the premise that funds are limited, that parents should be the first to act (and sacrifice) with regard to educating their own kids and that we must prioritize, given there IS a bottom to the money barrel.

Don't create a charity case where none exists and none is needed.

The well is quickly running dry.

If you REALLY like the Pre-K baby sitting program that much, then fight tooth and nail for cutting back on programs like EBT, SNAP, EIC, WIC and so many other give-aways to free up the funds for YOUR pet project.

If we were to "means test" just a few of those freebies, then you'd have all the money you want for Pre-K. (And of course it should be means tested as well.)_

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