By Kimberly Medeiros
Aside from parents, preschool teachers play the most important role in preparing a child for school and the rest of their lives. While parents provide the nurturing and support, teachers have the special skillset and wealth of knowledge needed to guide our children through meaningful early learning experiences.
Investing in preschools fulfills the mission of First 5 San Diego to make sure all children in San Diego County up to age 5 are healthy, loved, nurtured, and enter school as active learners. We feel so strongly about this investment that First 5 San Diego has allocated $50 million to The Quality Preschool Initiative.
We’ve seen The Quality Preschool Initiative provide high-quality preschool at no cost, regardless of family income, in 16 high-need communities – Borrego Springs, Central San Diego, Chula Vista, El Cajon, Escondido, Fallbrook, Lemon Grove, Mountain Empire, National City, Oceanside, Ramona, San Ysidro, South Bay, Spring Valley, Valley Center/Pauma, and Vista.
This amounts to a sizable savings for families in San Diego who might not otherwise be able to afford to send their child or children to preschool. The current cost for a year of quality preschool education amounts to $5,650. This figure is unattainable for many San Diego County residents living paycheck to paycheck. Parents face the choice of feeding their family or spending this amount of money on preschool, even if they understand the value.
The savings and benefits reach far beyond the student and their family. Multiple studies show that children who attend a quality preschool program get a better start in life, perform better in school and are less likely to turn to crime later in life. It costs an average of $47,000 per year to house a prison inmate in California, amounting to billions every year. Can preschool help lower the cost we spend on prisons? We think so.
We are not alone in this mission. Early Edge California points out, for the third consecutive State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama underscored the importance of investing in early childhood education. Although state and federal funding exists for preschool education, The Quality Preschool Initiative fills the gap between what’s provided and what’s needed for a truly enriching education.
Imagine a backpack. If a child qualifies for public assistance, their backpack is partially full with books. If a child is eligible for the Quality Preschool Initiative, the remainder of the backpack is filled by giving that child’s preschool what it needs for maintaining and improving high quality preschool programs.
We hope San Diego parents see the importance of early childhood education. Whether your child is enrolled in a program through The Quality Preschool Initiative or in a program paid for through the bank of mom and dad, a quality preschool education is critical to the development of our children.
—Kimberly Medeiros is executive director of First 5 San Diego.