Children who attend high-quality preschool are far more likely to succeed in school and become stable, economically self-sufficient adults. They are far less likely to ever be arrested, need remedial education, rely on government assistance, or abuse drugs or alcohol. They become contributors to their communities. High-quality preschool is one of the most cost-effective investments to promote prosperity and prevent poverty today and in the next generation.
This is hardly news, and virtually every educator, pediatrician, parent, grandparent, economist and informed citizen agrees on these points. There are years of supporting research, and in meetings and town halls across Pima County the value and the need for high-quality preschool has been proclaimed.
The great challenge is to make high-quality preschool available and affordable for the kids in our community.
A growing number of communities in Arizona and across the nation recognize the value of high-quality early childhood education. They have developed innovative approaches to funding access to preschool. Thus, a growing number of their children benefit from preschool. This newspaper continues to report on successful programs—how they work and how they came to be.
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Unfortunately, in Pima County, only 25% of 3- and 4-year-olds attend high-quality preschool, a tragically low number. Arizona has an excellent rating system for evaluating preschool quality, but despite some state subsidies, some scholarships and the Arizona Head Start Association, 75% of our kids do not attend high-quality preschool.
It bodes poorly for our future economic success and well-being that poor children, children of color and children of young working parents — those likely to benefit most — are least likely to have access to high-quality preschool. Cost is the major barrier.
Enter The Preschool Promise!
The Preschool Promise aims to change this sad state of affairs. We are a growing and diverse coalition of business leaders, educators, community organizations, parents and concerned citizens who support making a reality of the goal of affordable access to high-quality preschool for all our children.
Together we are seeking dedicated new funding to ensure that more of our children—eventually all who wish to—can attend a high-quality preschool. A bipartisan majority of Pima County voters support increasing access to preschool education and are willing to spend money to make it so.
The Preschool Promise emerged from Strong Start Tucson, a ballot initiative to fund preschool in the city of Tucson. Although that initiative did not succeed, most people agreed that preschool is crucial for our children and our community. Those who did not support SST virtually all agreed that high-quality preschool is vital but were concerned about administrative and operational provisions.
Now, past supporters and past opponents of that initiative have pulled together to resolve the concerns and to increase preschool attendance. The Preschool Promise is our result.
We at The Preschool Promise are committed to this crucial goal: Through education, advocacy, persuasion and political action, we aim to increase access to high-quality preschool. This past spring we sought to fund a modest number of preschool scholarships through the Pima County Budget. While the Pima County Board of Supervisors did not fund the proposal, they do support the principle of providing access to high-quality early childhood education for every child, and they appreciate the broad citizen support for doing so.
The Preschool Promise coalition will work with the Board of Supervisors, with city and state officials and with private and public entities to make the principle a reality for our children. We’ll work with everyone who values high-quality preschool!
So join us. We invite you and every Pima County resident to participate in The Preschool Promise—truly a movement—to enhance the future of our children and our community’s prosperity. Learn more and sign on as a supporter at www.thepreschoolpromise.org.
Eric Schindler is president and CEO of Child and Family Resources; Penelope Jacks is a Tucson attorney and child advocate.