For Immediate Release: April 24, 2017
By Ted Maple, Ph.D., President and CEO, Early Learning Indiana
Last fall, a new four-year-old student enrolled in one of our early learning centers after receiving a state pre-K scholarship. The first four years of his life were not ideal. His parents weren’t in the picture. His grandparents were doing the best they could to raise him. He struggled with anger and emotional pain. He had been kicked out of three child care centers for behavior problems. At age four, he had received the message that he didn’t belong. In a year’s time, he would be entering school faced with the likelihood that he would not fit in there either. His challenging behavior would have probably continued, leading to struggles to keep up – socially and academically – and it would have taken a miracle for him to get on track and have a chance for success.
Fortunately, he had the gift of a publicly funded pre-K scholarship. His grandparents were able to bring him to school, where he learns every day. He is not only learning about books and numbers and science, but he is learning how to be part of a group and a citizen of a classroom. He is thriving. His grandparents describe his experience as follows: “He is challenged every day to be a good student and a better person.” This boy now has a chance. He is not guaranteed success. He will have to work hard for it. But he will emerge after a year of pre-K with the skills and experiences that make his success in school much more likely. Pre-K is not a silver bullet. It cannot solve every challenge faced by young children and their families. But it sure helps. Research proves it. And, we see it every day in examples like this one.
Thanks to the commitment and leadership of Governor Holcomb, members of the General Assembly, community and business leaders across the state, and the multitude of individual people – parents, teachers, involved citizens – who have championed the movement to give thousands more four-year old Hoosier children a great start. This past weekend, the legislature passed a bill that will expand pre-K, improve access to quality options across the state and commit to ensuring we study the program along the way to ensure it is achieving outcomes children and families deserve. This is great news – an exciting step forward for a state that has lagged behind on this issue for too long.
Yet, there will still be tens of thousands of four-year-olds in low-income families across Indiana without access to quality pre-K. There will still be Hoosier children entering kindergarten every year without the skills and experiences they need to be successful. There will still be boys and girls like the child mentioned above who will not “fit in” because of never having the opportunity to learn how to do so. Hoosier leaders and citizens will need to keep pushing our legislators to invest in our future by expanding pre-K until every family who wants pre-K can afford it. We need to keep pushing until every child gets the start he and she deserve.
My colleagues and I at Early Learning Indiana commit to doing all we can to ensure this new investment – and future investments – pays off. We will roll up our sleeves and partner with communities across the state to help make this pre-K expansion a success, while building capacity so our state is ready to serve even more children with high-quality pre-K. We need more great options for families. We need better-prepared teachers for children. We need to ensure Indiana’s pre-K program is the best in the country, and that it is prepared to serve families who want and need it. We have that opportunity and obligation.
Early childhood education is not a new idea. We know it works. We know it can make a difference and put children and families on the path to success and prosperity. I am encouraged by our progress this year and I am hopeful that it will continue in future years.
Media Contact: Jeff Harris, 317.636.9197 ext. 337, firstname.lastname@example.org