Kids need a stronger start — let’s give them one by expanding access to Preschool and pre-K.
Extensive research supports that Preschool education can substantially increase a child’s chances of thriving in school and in life. Programs teach social skills, through interactions, mentoring and direct teaching—and often can shrink racial education gaps in children’s development. While early care and education can be an unmanageable expense for parents, widely available programs enhance equity to access and opportunity for all young learners. So, let’s take advantage of quality programs and give our kids the best possible start.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT UNIVERSAL PRESCHOOL?
Universal Preschool means high-quality Preschool that is publicly funded and available to all families. Programs promote learning and growth, and there are funding mechanisms on federal, state and local levels that are currently available to ensure universal Preschool becomes a reality.
Head Start is America’s first and largest pre-K program, a Federal initiative dating back to 1965 that promotes school readiness in children from birth to age five. Focused mainly on infants, toddlers, and Preschool-aged children of low-income families, Head Start delivers public Preschool and pre-K services to more than a million children every year, in every U.S. state and territory through 1,600 agencies in local communities.
Head Start has been reauthorized and funding expanded over many years, and the current administration has provided additional funding for pre-K and early childhood education in its domestic agenda. This federal-state partnership offers states funds to expand public Preschool programs to reach nearly six million kids not currently enrolled in Preschool. That would be a great start.
“The highest rate of return in early childhood development comes from investing as early as possible, from birth through age five, in disadvantaged families.”
—James J. Heckman, Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economics
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH PRE-K IN MARYLAND?
Head Start manages more than 20 programs and partners with other non-profit organizations, schools, and community action agencies in Maryland. There are many other Preschool programs in the state, as well, including two provided by The Children’s Guild in College Park and Annapolis.
Currently, free pre-K is only available to 4-year-olds from low-income families, but it’s working. Three of the four counties that offer universal pre-K—Somerset, Garrett and Kent—ranked in the top 10 of children’s readiness for kindergarten yet are also some of the poorer counties in the state.
Increasing access to affordable, high-quality pre-K statewide was a key focus of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, which analyzed Maryland public schools and areas that need improvement. They recommend phasing in full-day pre-K for all 3 and 4-year-olds statewide.
PRE-K DONE “THE MONARCH WAY”
Monarch Preschool College Park is a high-quality, project‑based learning pre-K program of The Children’s Guild.
Preschool Director Krissie Taylor says Monarch Preschool plays an important role on the city of College Park’s economic revitalization. “We have a unique opportunity to support the city with programs that parents want and in which our children can be successful. We offer a warm and welcoming place where students learn how to make sense of their world. Delivering Preschool experiences is important for attracting parents to move and stay in our city and contribute to our community.”
Chief Education Officer Kathy Lane says high-quality programs are a key aspect of pre-K. “Increasing access to quality programs requires proven education curriculums and best practices. It’s a huge priority for us. We know all kids want to learn, so we implement project-based learning to feed their natural passion, offering learning experiences as expeditions into the unknown.
Over and over, we’ve seen our pre-K programs form strong relationships between students and teachers which draw on the power of small groups, create exploratory mindsets, and help kids understand their community.”
After success in College Park and recognized demand in other areas of Maryland, The Children’s Guild expanded pre-K services to their Monarch Academy Annapolis, targeting low-income families, English Language Learners, and children with special education needs/IEPs (Individualized Education Plan). The program is fully funded by MSDE. PreK Grants are funding the program at MAA.
DOES PRE-K WORK?
A recent comprehensive Brookings Institution study of Preschool programs found that not only do they provide an advantage for kids, they also offer encouraging long-term results and economic benefits. Researchers specifically asked whether publicly funded Preschool is worth the investment from taxpayers. Looking at Head Start programs they found:
- Preschool children ages 3 to 5 were significantly more likely to earn a four-year college degree later in life.
- After three years in a program, kids were 3% more likely to finish high school, 8.5% more likely to attend college, and 39% more likely to finish college.
- Attendees were more likely to work and have professional jobs later in life.
- Female students were 32% less likely to live in poverty as adults, and male students saw a 42% decrease in receiving public assistance.
- Later in adulthood, attendees were 5% more likely to be employed, work 8.7% more hours per week, and 27% less likely to receive public assistance.
As the study publication summarizes, “…even the nascent, underfunded Head Start programs of the 1960s delivered sizable benefits.”
Several other studies in Massachusetts, Tennessee and other areas saw outsized effects of providing a Preschool education, and provide a strong case for universal pre-K.
From a recent National Public Radio story: “…there’s growing evidence that Preschool can permanently improve kids’ lives — but it’s not necessarily because it makes them smarter. It seems more related to making them more disciplined and motivated, which is just as important (or perhaps even more important) for their future livelihoods as how well they perform on reading or math tests.”
LET’S GIVE ALL KIDS EVERY EARLY ADVANTAGE THAT WE CAN
A parent’s desire to give their child every opportunity available is universal. By offering high-quality and meaningful pre-K programs, The Children’s Guild and many other organizations provide proven benefits and touch children’s lives in highly impactful ways. Please support universal pre-K!
The Children’s Guild seeks partnerships and growth opportunities of all kinds. Should you want to learn more or see the work they do in area schools, please contact them anytime at 410.444.3800.