I discovered my neighbor is national program director for health and early childhood facilities at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Earlier this summer she wrote an interesting, and in some ways depressing, story about pre-K programs around the country. “Why are we sending children to pre-K programs in converted salons, bars and turkey coops?” This is a subject I feel a real affinity for given my experience with my own children.
Political leaders are pledging to make pre-K accessible to all families and nearly three in four Americans support major investment in early childhood learning — we are a long way, though, from acting on what we say we value.
Early childhood education is still woefully underfunded and seats are in critically short supply. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, at current levels of public funding, it would take about 75 years for states to reach 50 percent enrollment for four year olds, and 150 years to reach 70 percent enrollment. The need is particularly great in low-income neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, where only 17 percent of preschool-age kids have access to quality, affordable education.
But envisioning a place for every child is not enough; the right kind of space is crucial. To be effective, early childhood centers need good lighting, sinks and windows at child height, bathrooms that teachers can supervise without leaving the class and a design that invites exploration and independence while maintaining safety.
My emphasis added. Funding for something like this can be found. It is the political will which is necessary.