- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I would like to comment concerning the Feb. 13 Op-Ed column “Change that won’t happen… thankfully.” A preponderance of research shows that high-quality early-education programs have both short- and long-term benefits for children, families and our economy. Expansion of access to quality pre-kindergarten is fundamentally about providing more options for parents and putting public resources where they earn the highest return on investment.

About a third of all pre-K-aged children are enrolled in centers outside of public schools. Yet despite increasing enrollments, high-quality early education is still out of reach for far too many families.

Our analysis of middle-class families shows that there is a large group of children - as much as 40 percent in some states - whose parents earn too much to qualify for publicly funded programs but not enough to afford quality private pre-K programs on their own. As a result, parents settle for poor-quality programs or make enormous financial sacrifices to afford the kind of settings in which their children learn and thrive. Similarly, many low-income families face waiting lists for child care subsidies or lack access to Head Start programs because federal funding for these programs has not increased for at least five years. (About 50 percent of children eligible for Head Start can’t attend because of a lack of federal funding.)

Our nation would be better-served if we remembered that economic recovery hinges on a sound physical and human infrastructure. Proven initiatives, such as early education, are where the federal government should invest its limited resources.

DANIELLE GONZALES

Project manager

Pre-K Now

Pew Center on the States

Washington

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