Early childhood education (“pre-K”) is still controversial and a heavy lift for our society. And, honestly, I don’t understand why. The evidence for its cost savings benefits is so strong. The National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers University has found that children who attend high quality pre-K have 20-40% improved test scores and are 40% less likely to be held back or require special education services. Moreover, pre-K educated students are 3/4 of an academic year ahead of non-pre-K students by 5th grade. “Babysitting,” it ain’t.
Economist James Heckman has published extensively in this field. His research concludes that pre-K children start school with larger vocabularies, better impulse control and motivation, as well as stronger social and work/collaborative skills. Heckman calculates a 7-10% return on investment for every dollar spent on pre-K.
A recent Monmouth University poll found that 87% of NJ residents feel that it is “important” and 57% felt is it “very important” to increase access to pre-K for NJ children. And there is already a law on the books to address the issue. The School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) was passed by the legislature and signed into law in 2008. Thanks to SFRA, 30 poor NJ school districts now have high quality pre-K programs. However, the law’s intention to expand to an additional 90 districts has been thwarted by a lack of funding for the project in subsequent years.
To address this problem, the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has partnered with Pre-K Our way. This nonpartisan group is chaired by former Republican governor Thomas Kean and former Democratic governor James Florio and includes on it’s board many important state business and political leaders. Pre-K our way is not a school but rather an advocacy group that assists communities in developing and implementing high quality pre-K programs for its children.
You can aid in this effort by visiting pre-K our way, following them on Facebook and twitter, and contacting your state legislators to express your support for statewide pre-K education. The future of our youngest citizens and our entire state will be better for your efforts.
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