Years of experience and detailed studies have made it clear that quality early-childhood education is a tremendous benefit as children move through their education and onto lifelong careers.
Those who benefit from preschool experiences perform better not only in kindergarten, but all the way through high school and are three times more likely to eventually enroll in college. They have better health records, improved family relations, fewer experiences with the criminal justice and welfare systems, and earn more money in the workplace.
But far too few children in Pima County benefit from a quality preschool experience because it is too expensive and assistance programs are lacking and diminishing quickly. We have thousands of low-income children in our districts – Tucson Unified, Sunnyside Unified and Amphitheater Public Schools – who would benefit from quality preschool opportunities.
That is why we support the proposal for a Pima County Preschool Investment Program that the Pima County Board of Supervisors is considering. With this plan, the county would provide initial funding to make such a program a reality.
There simply is no better way to get our children ready for success in kindergarten and beyond, both educationally and socially. Approximately 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5, and scientific studies show the experiences of these early years affect that development.
We live in an increasingly complex and technological world that requires a growing level of mental acuity in order to navigate it successfully. Initiating a child’s education with quality preschool instruction and socialization is concurrently growing in importance. We simply cannot let our children fall behind.
First Things First, a statewide early-childhood organization that voters created in 2006 and funded with an 80-cents-per-pack cigarette tax, would administer the Pima County Preschool Investment Program. This organization has significant expertise in the field and ranks preschool programs based on the quality of their offerings. Only preschool programs that score highly under the First Things First ranking system would be eligible for the Pima County proposal’s funding.
Children from families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for the proposed Pima County program. An estimated 13,600 3- and 4-year-old children in Pima County are in that low-income category.
Currently, only 1,780 of the eligible 3- and 4-year-olds receive an Arizona Department of Economic Security preschool subsidy, which averages just $350 per child per month, while the average cost of a quality preschool program is $836 per child per month.
Each of us serves on a local Tucson school board and represents just one voice from each of these, but together we support the proposed Pima County Preschool Investment Program. We believe our districts would benefit from this proposal and could provide space, teachers and teachers’ aides to begin instruction and socialization for 3- and 4-year-olds if county funding for this becomes available.
We care deeply about the success of the students in our districts and know that a quality preschool educational experience will greatly enhance the chances of success for our students. We are excited about the prospect of this proposal becoming a reality.
We hope and trust that the public — parents, relatives, neighbors, teachers and everyone who cares about the long-term success of today’s and tomorrow’s children — will support this proposal as well.