Since the State of the Union in February, there has been a spotlight on Early Childhood Education. Here at CAP Tulsa, this is a subject dear to our hearts. We understand how development during a child’s early years forms a foundation for later academic achievement.
We take an intergenerational approach to fighting poverty, meaning we serve both parents and their children. However, CAP is especially committed to providing quality Early Childhood Programs. We do this because scientific research shows that healthy brain development requires that infants and toddlers have “stable, caring and interactive relationships with adults,” including both parents and other caregivers. (See InBrief: The Science of Early Childhood Development.) Quality center based programs for infants and toddlers is one proven method to provide the environment necessary for early learning.
Academic achievement among children who participated in quality early childcare programs is greater with regards to reading and math, and their cognitive test scores are also higher, according to findings from the Carolina Abecedarian Project.
Furthermore, studies of children who received quality early education found that as adults these individuals had higher incomes, greater job retention, and higher educational attainment compared to individuals who did not attend preschool. Not surprisingly, this evidence is why the importance of early childhood education resonates with people across occupations and garners support among scientists, educators, business leaders and policymakers.
As the studies cited above help to show, quality preschool programs provide children with the skills necessary to thrive in academic and social settings, both in childhood and later in life. This is why CAP’s early childhood programs address both cognitive skills, such as reading and math, as well as social-emotional skills, such as self-control, judgment, reasoning and problem solving. Through our partnership with Family and Children’s Services, our program also offers family support, parent education, crisis intervention and family counseling services. By offering these services to our families, we hope to facilitate a healthy atmosphere where children’s minds can reach their full potential.
Since we know how important early development is in relation to lifelong learning, it is troubling to think about how many Tulsa children we cannot afford to reach. Right now, nationwide, there are hundreds of thousands of children starting kindergarten already behind their classmates in necessary skills, because they lacked quality early education.
Currently, through a combination of federal, state and private funding, CAP is able to provide free center based services to approximately 2,000 students and home based services for an additional 72 children. However, there are roughly 2,000 more children remaining on our waitlist. Around 1,100 of these waiting children live in families that fall below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.
We appreciate that quality early child care is expensive, and falls beyond the reach of families living in poverty, absent some assistance from government or private sources. (See previous posts: Child Care Costs as Compared to College Tuition and Guest Blog: How we Can Move From Good Child Care to Quality Early Learning.) This is why President Obama’s proposal to increase support for early childhood programs is so important to our agency’s mission. The President has put forth the call to:
1) Expand high quality pre-kindergarten to all 4 year olds starting with children from low- and middle-income families;
2) Expand high quality Early Head Start for children from birth to age three; and
3) Expand voluntary home visiting programs that support parents with young children.
CAP currently offers all three of these services: Head Start; Early Head Start; and voluntary home visiting programs. Under Obama’s proposal, Tulsa could expand services and reach more children on our waiting list. We believe all parents should enjoy the opportunity to enroll their children in high-quality early education programs. Providing struggling families with the chance to enhance their child’s early learning opportunities is a smart investment in a community’s future, and has implications on the future of America’s workforce and economy.
For further reading on early childhood education in Oklahoma, and at CAP specifically, check out some of the links below or visit our website by clicking here.
- CAP was recently featured in a CBS Evening News story “Oklahoma offers pre-K model for nation” and a Tulsa World article, “Tulsa’s preschool programs seen as national model.”
- The story of how business leaders spurred key Oklahoma legislators into becoming advocates for state funded prekindergarten is chronicled in an episode of This American Life. (Act Four of Episode 477: Getting Away With It.)