National Attention Focused on Importance of Early Education

Author: Karen Ortiz, Vice President and Program Director, Early Childhood Education Initiatives

February 20, 2014

On Friday, January 17, President Obama signed into law a bipartisan spending bill for fiscal year 2014 with an almost $1.5 billion increase in early education.  As a foundation focused on creating opportunities for individuals to succeed in postsecondary education, we are pleased to see that early childhood education is receiving national attention for being a critical component to student success.    

In the early learning sector, the legislation includes significant increases for early childhood education, including $250 million to expand the Race to the Top program for grants to states to develop, enhance or expand high-quality preschool programs for low and moderate-income families. 

The focus on low and moderate income families is of particular interest to Helios as we are focused on providing opportunities for traditionally underserved populations including low-income, minority and first-generation. 

More than half of all children in Arizona and Florida live in low-income households.  In Florida, more than 45 percent of low-income children ages three and four are not enrolled in preschool.  In Arizona, that number is a staggering 69 percent. 

In the area of language development and early literacy, this is significant because by the time a child ,whose family lives in a very low socioeconomic neighborhood with limited access to early childhood programs, reaches age four, she may have heard only two words for every seven that a child in a higher-income family has heard.  By the time that child enters kindergarten, she could be as many as 12-14 months behind in early language and literacy skills compared with children from higher income families. Our Foundation recognizes the impact of these skills to the overall success of a child in the early grades and beyond. Having the opportunity to access  high quality preschool programs can help all children gain the developmental skills necessary to put them on the path to school achievement.   

There is great momentum around early childhood education in Arizona and Florida.  It is our hope that the national attention provided by the 2014 federal budget will continue to elevate early childhood as a key component of ensuring all students are prepared to succeed in college and career.

Category: Early Childhood Education

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