Your Views – City Councils wise investment in pre-K programs

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We are both members of the Alexandria/Arlington School Readiness Council and true believers in the importance of quality pre-Kindergarten education.As such, we commend City Council for allocating additional funds in the FY 2009 City budget to expand and improve pre-Kindergarten education and school readiness programs. With the real estate slide and sputtering economy, we all know this was a tough budget year. But putting additional resources toward improving pre-K access and quality is truly money well spent.

This is not just our opinion, but that of legions of educators, business people, and political leaders from both sides of the aisle. Indeed, the returns on public investment in pre-K programs would make an investment banker envious. As observed in a 2005 article by Councilman Krupicka and School Board Member Schmalz, the highly regarded 2004 Perry Preschool(Michigan) Longitudinal Study Through Age 40 determined that the pre-K programs economic return to society was $17 for every $1 of public funds invested. Similarly, a 2005 analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis concluded that, In our view, the case is closed for why we must invest in ECD (Early Childhood Development). Now it is time to design and implement a system that will help society realize on a large scale the extraordinary returns that high-quality ECD programs have shown they can deliver.

The allocation of additional funding for pre-K programs is an affirmation that Council is now standing behind its and the School Boards 2005 Joint Resolution which supported expanded pre-K access in the City. That Joint Resolution recognized that children who have received quality preschool educational experience tend to perform significantly better in school than those who have not, and that the benefits of providing such experience can extend well beyond elementary and secondary school . . . [including] higher graduation rates, higher college attendance rates, and more fulfilling and lucrative employment opportunities.

While expanding pre-K access in this community is a long-term project, we are encouraged by Councils actions in the FY 2009 Budget. We are also encouraged by Governor Kaines commitment to pre-K programs. The Governors Start Strong initiative has been at the top of his administrations priority list from day one. While the General Assembly, unfortunately, has not yet shared Mr. Kaines enthusiasm for pre-K programs, it did see the wisdom of providing some additional pre-K resources in this years State Budget. Those additional funds should enable Council and the School Board to take further steps to improve and expand pre-K services in the City.

Again, we commend Council for promoting pre-K education, its support of programs serving children prenatal to five and call on the community at large to support those and additional efforts in the future. Such efforts will pay valuable dividends to the City and the region for years to come, and ultimately help save resources that can be devoted to other important public needs.

Sean McEnearney and Arthur SchmalzThe authors are both members of the Alexandria/Arlington School Readiness Council. Mr. McEnearney is the current Chairman of the Alexandria Early Childhood Commission. Mr. Schmalz was a member of the School Board from 2003-2006 and co-sponsor of the 2005 Joint Resolution calling for expanded pre-K access.

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