Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Isn't it Worth it?

If you had to dip into your savings to make sure your child was able to get the best start possible-the best chance to live the American Dream-you'd do it, right? Of course you would. I would. But, according to The Southern Education Foundation, the State of Georgia won't.

While the Georgia Lottery Reserve Fund sat at $879.1 million, ($309.5 restricted, $569.6 unrestricted) and our rainy day fund reached an historic one billion dollars in 2007, half of Georgia's four year olds were shut out of "universal" Pre-K. We once led the nation in creating "universal" Pre-K, but over the last ten years, enrollment in Georgia has basically flat-lined and spending has declined by about $400 per student, this according to a report titled, "Time to Lead Again: The Promise of Georgia Pre-K," and published by The Southern Education Foundation. And, they're just counting the children whose parents want them to attend Pre-K. There are, no doubt, invisible children whose parents never added their name to a waiting list.

In Bibb County, only 49.1% of children who entered 5K were enrolled in a Georgia Pre-K program. More than half of children who attend 4K in Bibb County are considered "at risk."

In 1993, Georgia's leaders demonstrated great vision by declaring that every child in Georgia would have access to Pre-K, but over the years, we have lost our vision and our will. Now, we spend a whopping 1.6% of the state's annual budget on Pre-K, even though we know that every $1 invested in Pre-K returns $5.12 to the state's economy. In fact, if we committed today to make space available for 80% of Georgia's four year olds, the program would pay for itself by 2026.

How? Students who participate in quality Pre-K are more likely to succeed in school and in life. Children who participated in a Georgia Pre-K program are much less likely be retained in 5K (2.8%) than those who attend a private Pre-K (4.4%) or those who attended no Pre-K (5.9%). And, as adults, children who attend a high-quality Pre-K are more likely to own their own home and more likely to earn more than $2,000 per month. Perhaps, most impressive, 41% of children who attend a high-quality Pre-K will never be on welfare as adults.

The bottom line is that we can do better, and we already have the resources we need to improve. It's time for Georgia's leaders to again embrace the vision that every single child should have access to excellent Pre-K education. It's not just the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense.*

*All of the statistical information in this post is from "Time to Lead Again: The Promise of Georgia Pre-K," published by The Southern Education Foundation. And, about that, I have good news and bad news. I got a copy of the report at a presentation in Atlanta tonight, but I don't think that it is posted on the net yet. That's the bad news. The good news is that the SEF is taking the presentation on the road in an effort to build public will to insist that every child whose parents want it should have access to quality Pre-K. They'll be coming to Macon soon, and to a city near you!

1 comment:

Tina said...

I, for one, am convinced that more early attention to a child's spoken communication ability and aural word recognition makes it easier for the child to learn to read. Pre-K is one of the ways to get this important exposure to vocabulary enhancement. Also, Georgia needs to check children more often for hearing and vision deficits, especially during the key testing years and upon high school entry. Just screening upon referral is not sufficient. They all need to be screened. But I ramble. Tina