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A Valuable Education Begins with Preschool

The data on high quality preschool is in, and it’s overwhelmingly positive. Three- and four-year-old children who attend  high quality preschool programs enter kindergarten better prepared to learn, and the positive effects of early learning continue  throughout their academic careers and beyond


According to Robert Putnam, the sociologist who authored “Our Kids” and “Bowling Alone,” a high-quality early education helps close achievement gaps between low-income children and their more affluent peers. English language learners (ELL) can also benefit greatly from preschool.


Low-income children often arrive at kindergarten already behind affluent children. They may not have the vocabulary, knowledge of colors and shapes, or social skills that children with different family circumstances have acquired. Children from families that don’t speak English at home may also be at a disadvantage. But preschool can help level the playing field by providing the developmental boost that low-income and ELL students need to succeed in school.


In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Nevada a federal preschool development grant in the amount of $6,405,860. States with small or no state-funded preschool programs were eligible for these development grants. Unfortunately, Nevada was unable to meet enrollment goals at the beginning of the program. This was a result of difficulties experienced in convincing parents to enroll their children and the lack of early childhood teachers licensed by the State. However, by the end of the fourth year of grant funding, approximately 2,900 children in the Clark County School District are expected to be enrolled in full-day preschool classes.


But that number is far too low. During the next legislative session, our legislators must provide additional funding for high quality preschool programs across the state, just as other states with similar populations have done.  


Preschool represents a significant investment. According to the U.S. Census, there are approximately 37,000 four-year-olds in Nevada, and about 22,000 are from low-income families. About one in four of these children speak Spanish at home and will need to English language instruction. Many working families around the state  would like to have access to preschool but cannot afford private programs.   


According to the Nevada Department of Education, full-day preschool for all Nevada three- and four-year-olds would cost approximately $261 million;  half-day, universal preschool would cost about half that amount. A half-day program for low-income children only would cost $77 million.


Is this investment in preschool worth it? Studies say yes, emphatically.


According to the National Conference of State Legislators , economists studying early education outcomes found “mounting evidence showing that investments in early education may be considered as an economic development strategy.” One preschool program studied found that every $1 invested in early education resulted in an $8 return in the form of economic development.  


The benefits of high quality preschool reach beyond students’ school years into their adult lives in the form of higher earnings, fewer arrests and improved quality of life.

High quality preschool is a boon to children and families and to our communities and our state’s economy. As legislators begin preparations for the upcoming session, they must be sure to include preschool funding as a top priority. The benefits of investing in this program are too important for Nevada to pass up.

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