Huntington County Must Go All-In for Pre-K

PreK Photo

17 Aug Huntington County Must Go All-In for Pre-K

By Adam Drummond

All kids in Huntington County – and across our state – deserve an equal shot at academic success, which starts with access to high-quality pre-k. That’s why a broad coalition of parents, teachers, bipartisan elected officials, employers, and civic leaders have formed an ambitious campaign – All IN 4 Pre-K – to educate Hoosiers on the many paybacks of pre-k and to advocate for  statewide investments in 2017. 

We are “all in” for pre-K because of its importance to our children and our state’s future. Decades of research demonstrate the powerful impact of pre-k on students’ academic success. The better educational outcomes that result also translate into long-term economic gains for our communities.

Despite these benefits, thousands of Hoosier children still lack access to quality pre-K programs. Many remain on waiting lists because there are a limited number of quality slots available or they lost out in the lottery process for the state’s limited pre-k programs, which serve only four percent of the 85,000 Indiana 4-year-olds. We need to do more to address the needs of these children because getting a strong academic start shouldn’t be based on luck or zip code.

Pre-k provides the strong foundation our youngest learners need to enter elementary school prepared to thrive. The most important development in a child’s brain occurs before age 5, and investing in quality pre-k enables us to reach children when they’re at this critical stage.  The benefits of these programs translate into short- and long-term positive outcomes for our local families and the whole state, such as lower rates of kindergarten retention and higher graduation rates.

United Way of Huntington County has been supporting early learning initiatives over the years, and we encourage the state to step up funding for these critical programs. 

Recognizing the benefits of pre-k, more of our state policy makers are making steps in the right direction to grow access to high-quality pre-k.  In 2013 funding was introduced to support Early Education Matching Grants, which support 20 high quality providers across the state, and the results are very promising.  In 2015, Indiana began funding pre-K for low-income 4-year-olds in five counties. As a result of these programs, more children across the state will enter kindergarten this fall prepared to succeed.

We are joined by many passionate nonprofit, business and faith based leaders to further the work of the All IN 4 Pre-K campaign. The time is now to ensure our next generation of leaders has the chance to flourish in school and in life. Their success is our success. We can’t afford to let this opportunity go to waste.

Drummond is president and CEO of United Way of Huntington County.

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