We promise many things to our children – to love them always, to do our best to protect them, to make their lives better. But many of our community’s children are missing the chance to get the early start they need for success throughout their lives.
What promise do they hold to be successful in their lives and in our community?
What our children do in the first five years of life isn’t just a stage – it’s really their only chance. Our brains do more work in the first five years of life but our investment in education is concentrated much later along children’s educational path.
Here’s how the path works, according to the data: Kindergarten readiness is improved by preschool experience. Third grade reading proficiency is driven by Kindergarten readiness. Eighth grade math achievement is linked to third grade reading success.
You probably see where this is going: 80-90% of students who excel in eighth grade math will graduate from high school, ready for college and career.
But many of our children are not getting the right start on that path.
According to the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, “Cincinnati only has enough federal Head Start funding to cover about half the children who are eligible. The state provides additional funding for childcare subsidies, but there are still gaps in the system. Thousands of children – more than half of the city’s 3 and 4 year olds – are completely unserved.”
The Preschool Promise believes that every child deserves a solid start and a chance at a better life. Attending preschool is the best foundation for achieving success and all of our children deserve that opportunity. I’m proud to be a steering committee member of the Preschool Promise.
The Promise is simple. Every child, regardless of family income, can use tuition credits – more people at more income levels will be able to afford it. Parents choose the preschool. It is “last dollar” support – other available funding will be used first. It will help create a sustainable market for quality preschool because parents will ask for it, and have the means to pay for it. The Promise will also help preschools improve their quality.
We are aiming to help 5,000 children get two years of quality preschool, which could make us first in the nation in this arena. Even our model program in Denver is just one year right now.
To make it happen, the Preschool Promise will need funding from a school district levy, city or county sales tax initiative, or by leveraging existing city, state, or school resources. Voters and elected officials alike will have to help fulfill this promise to our kids.
It’s worth it. According to the First Five Years Fund, “Every dollar invested in quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children delivers economic gains of 7-10 percent per year through increased school achievement, healthy behavior, and adult productivity.”
Investing in quality preschool is also an investment in grownups: our current workforce. It provides quality education – not just babysitting – for the children of those working in many sectors, and it creates a more highly qualified workforce in the preschools themselves.
How does this connect to the work of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation? Since our 1992 Early Childhood Initiative, GCF has invested in the early years of our region’s kids. As best practices have evolved, the Foundation has invested and provided leadership to collaborative efforts like Success by Six ®, Partners for a Competitive Workforce, and StrivePartnership.
GCF’s work to ensure Thriving People includes investments in Economic Opportunity and Educational Success that support children and families through their lives. And we believe that a successful educational career for each child, beginning with quality preschool, can help level the playing field on longstanding racial inequity in our workforce and local economy.
Quality preschool for all children. Everyone believes it’s a good idea. Let’s make it happen for Greater Cincinnati’s kids.
Here’s what others are saying:
- Preschool for all in 2015? by Cincinnati Enquirer Editorial Board (Jan. 14, 2015)
- Universal preschool would deliver ROI by Xavier University students, Mark Anliker, Christopher Schrank, Victoria Mairal-Cruz, Leah Efken, Jonathan Hogue and Liz Tate (May 14, 2014)
- Quality preschool key to lifelong success by Andrew Walsh (April 22, 2014)
Shiloh Turner is The Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Vice President of Community Investment. Learn more about her here.