I am writing on behalf of the California state preschools. These preschools were established in 1965 and have grown to serve 500,000 children in our state.
These schools operate under rigorous standards to provide a high quality school readiness program for low-income children. The children get health screenings and follow-ups as well as screenings for developmental and speech delays, and behavioral issues.
If problems are found, appropriate services and resources are secured. Many times these issues are not discovered in a short doctor’s visit, and the preschool teacher is the first person to make that important referral for services. Last year, in my center alone, we discovered six children who needed glasses.
School districts benefit when the children entering kindergarten are prepared to learn because they have been to preschool: they can write their names, cut with scissors, listen to a story, recite a poem, count and follow directions. They are ready to succeed because they have a foundation of skills, concepts and experience. If they needed early intervention, they got it.
Our state Legislature has cut state preschool contracts, and they are now considering cutting another 15 percent from the programs. If this happens, we could lose 75 percent of the California State Preschool Program. There are 10 state preschools throughout San Luis Obispo County alone.
Long-range studies have shown that for every $1 expended on preschool, there is a benefit of between $6 and $16. Early intervention is proven to level the playing field and is critical to closing the achievement gap.
Children who attend preschool are less likely to be held back a grade and more likely to graduate from high school. They have lower rates of juvenile delinquency and have higher literacy and math scores in standardized tests.
If we allow these programs to fail, we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There are real problems to be addressed in Sacramento, but dismantling a proven program with a distinguished track record going back 46 years is completely unjustifiable.
Stacey Avelar works at the May Grisham Early Learning Center in Orcutt.