The first three years of a child’s life, when the human brain develops more rapidly than any other subsequent period, are a time of enormous physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language development.
Research indicates that nearly 90 percent of brain growth occurs during these early years. The pace and outcomes of this growth depends on whether the child’s eagerness to learn is stimulated by their environment and comprehensive child development is supported.
Research also shows that the window for dramatic growth in executive function skills is from 3 to age 5. Executive function, including self-regulation, relies on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility and self-control. These functions are essential for school achievement, for the preparation and adaptability of the future workforce, and for avoiding a wide range of health issues.
Universal Pre-Kindergarten Education is widely seen as a public good.
Before kindergarten, children may or may not have access to early childhood education (pre-school). Access to quality pre-school for young children typically depends on the on the income and resourcefulness of their parents. Although nationwide, pre-school enrolment has increased to 74 percent for four year olds and 51 percent for 3 year old children, low-income and disadvantaged children are least likely to participate. It is estimated that only 22 percent of low-income families have access to federally subsidized child care.
Ohio currently funds part-time pre-kindergarten slots for some 17,215 children. Some of the current slots are going unused because working parents need a full-day option.
United Way of Greater Lorain County Position
United Way of Greater Lorain County (UWGLC) supports making high quality preschool universally accessible to all three and four year old children. Toward that end, UWGLC supports:
- Federal and state funding to fully fund full-day pre-school(nine-hour) or a shorter day alternative for families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)and sliding scale tuition for families between 200-400 percent of FPL. Ohio should provide public pre-k for all eligible four year olds and 65 percent of the available slots offer a full-day option so working families can use them.
- Increasing the federal child care subsidy to make child care more affordable.
- Integrating and coordinating early childhood programs to eliminate duplication, effectively utilizing all funds and aligning services for child and families.