By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
Early childhood education is of critical importance to the future of our children, and our nation. Children who experience seamless and comprehensive services from birth until age five are more likely to enter kindergarten prepared for success with a strong foundation in both education and social domains.
Research shows that quality early childhood education leads to a wide range of short and long term benefits like better educational outcomes, higher job earnings and lower crime and delinquency as compared to students who were not enrolled in similar programs. According to researchers, children who were enrolled in Early Head Start, Head Start, or similar early childhood education programs prior to the start of secondary school are able to grasp educational concepts better than those who did not.
Recently I hosted an educational summit in the 30th Congressional District that addressed the issue of early childhood education. Hundreds of participants, including administrators, teachers, school superintendents, parents and public officials attended the day-long event. At the close of the summit the solution was clear—- – we must provide children with access to all opportunities available in order to ensure their success.
The HighScope early childhood education approach was developed in 1960 by David Weikart in the Ypsilanti, Michigan elementary schools. Weikart became interested in evaluating at-risk students from low-income neighborhoods and found that the students performed poorly on district-wide, standardized tests. Weikart developed the Perry Preschool Project in 1962 which utilized the HighScope Curriculum, focusing on active learning, learning environment, and adult-child interaction.
The study of 123 children analyzed the effectiveness of the program by measuring adulthood outcomes in several categories. The data was clear. Students with similar backgrounds and socioeconomic status who did not complete the HighScope program were more likely to have experienced a teen pregnancy, received government assistance, or have participated in criminal activity.
I strongly urge all parents of young children to contact their local school district and enroll their children in early childhood education programs. On April 6th, nearly all of the schools in District 30 began registering students for these programs. There is still time to get students registered. Investing wisely in our children today will yield tremendous results in the future.
During his state of the union address in January of this year, President Barack Obama characterized the expansion of preschool programs for children as “ladders” into the middle class.
The FY2016 Presidential Budget Request included funding for several early childhood education programs that offer grants to model programs that provide education in low-income areas, and I am a strong advocate for those programs being included in the FY16 budget.
In Congress, I will continue to fight for more funding for preschool programs in Texas. I believe that educating young children is crucial, not only to personal success, but to the success of our nation.