Parenting Matters: Investing in our young children

  • Wednesday, February 20, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

Everyone wants more money. We all believe our causes are the most important. But let me talk with you about a group who needs more education which costs more money but is equally important for all of us.

We all want our children to have a good start on life. The education a young child receives before he even enters kindergarten determines how he will probably do for the rest of his education. Most parents who can afford to send their child to preschool, spend a great deal of time trying to figure out which schools will provide the best education for their child.

Most parents know that preschool can be very expensive for them. For low-income families this makes preschool almost more than many can afford. Without this preschool head start, children from low-income families begin their education significantly behind children who have one or two years of preschool.

There are numerous studies showing that low-income children who begin kindergarten at the same academic level as children from wealthier families are more likely to graduate on time, go to college and start a career.

Our legislature has recognized the significant advantage preschool gives to all children. The past few budgets have included funding for Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program for children from low-income families. This year, the Legislature added 1,000 more seats for needy children.

This help for 13,000 young children from low-income families is wonderful for these families. But there are nearly 4,000 more children now who are not receiving any financial help. That number is expected to grow to 5000 by 2022 (Seattle Times, Feb. 3, 2019). This does not include many borderline families who cannot afford to pay the total cost of preschool.

Today support for early learning programs accounts for a little more than 1 percent of the state budget. Education for K-12th grade makes up about 50 percent and higher education makes up another 15 percent.

Increasing the support for early learning programs could make a huge difference in helping more preschool students ultimately be successful in school.

All of this support is to help all children be successful as they begin their education. It includes payment for preschool, help to improve preschool education, home-visiting programs that help parents with children from birth through age 3, and any other kind of support to help our youngest citizens.

Worth the investment

Why should we help? There are many reasons. The high cost of providing programs for preschools is one. The cost is around $7,500 for part time students to $16,000 for extended day students.

Another reason to invest in education for this group is that it also includes teacher training and mentoring which improves the quality of the program for all children enrolled. We continue to learn more ways to be effective in how we teaching our youngest citizens.

A third reason is that the more educated the United States citizens are the more everyone benefits. Educated people are more likely to be employed and to not need financial help. Providing this financial help for preschool age children will in the long run benefit all of us.

Another significant reason to invest in early childhood education is the money saved in other areas. School districts save money throughout grades K-12 when the child has a good beginning in preschool.

You may not have children in your home now that need preschool education. It may be that your children are grown and they now have children in this age group. You may just need to be helping our society become more educated and ready to be employed in existing jobs.

We need educated people helping to keep social security income coming for our older citizens. We need educated people helping to learn new ways to help our aging population and new innovations in our health care system.

Education of our youth is of value to all of us. It is our responsibility and also to our benefit. Let your legislators know what you think. Even let your city officials know what you think.

Citizens who speak up even on elections make a difference in the direction our country and our city goes.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach current First Teacher Executive Director Nicole Brewer, email nicole@firstteacher.org or call 360-681-2250.

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