Oregon’s Families Need Better Preschool Options Now
High-quality preschool can lead to higher achievement in math and reading.
In the midst of the resource constraints that COVID-19 has brought to law enforcement departments and agencies across the US, minimizing crime has never been so important. And, when I’m asked how we can minimize crime in Warrenton and throughout Oregon and the country, one of the most important – and surprising – responses I give? Focus on preschool.
Multiple studies have found that for kids, attending a high-quality preschool can lead to higher achievement in math and reading, and to significantly lower chances of being held back a grade. In other words, when kids are prepared to learn when they start school, they’re better prepared for the race to the finish when they graduate and enter our workforce. These factors are critical when it comes to graduation rates. Unfortunately, as it stands, one-third of the people incarcerated in Oregon, and 6 out of every 10 prisoners nationwide, don’t have a high school diploma. As a longtime member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, I have advocated for pre-K for over 15 years in the hopes of helping break a vicious cycle and stopping crime before it ever happens.
In monetary terms, an analysis of nearly 20 different studies of quality pre-k programs found that participation can accrue average cost savings to society of nearly $27,000 for every child served. This comes from pre-K’s impact on cutting crime and incarceration rates, reducing overall education costs, and increasing future wages
For these reasons and more, I strongly supported Oregon’s Student Success Act, which would have invested $2 billion over 2 years in public education starting in 2020. However, with current circumstances, that funding may not happen right away or at the amount estimated and secondly, only $74 million is slotted for the various preschool programs that are available. Especially at a time when preschool programs are facing significant financial strain, $74 million is simply not enough funding to address three key improvements that must be made to ensure a quality experience for our kids. First, we need to enhance our preschool facilities and make transportation more accessible, so parents can get their kids to school. Second, we need to support quality teaching and provide professional development opportunities for teachers. And third, we need to increase wages to pay qualified teachers what they’re worth.
The COVID-19 crisis has set into motion a national conversation about access to child care and pre-K. As the crisis continues – and as it comes to an end and normalcy resumes – I, and the 160 Oregon members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids who see early education as a top priority, hope more than ever to see that the next generation of children can still get the start in life that will put them on the path to success and prevent later crime.
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