I grew up in inner city Cincinnati, but unlike many of my peers and children in our city, I had a fair chance at a better, healthier, more fulfilling life. Preschool played a big part in my chances. Although my mother was poor, she valued education and enrolled me in a preschool program. By the end of it, I could read. Because of that, when I was kindergarten age, I was not only ready for it, I tested into a magnet alternative school. This strong foundation prepared me to graduate from Walnut Hills, attend college and have a successful career.
The bad news is, my experience is the exception and not the rule. The good news is, there is something we can do about it. While students from low income neighborhoods start Kindergarten significantly behind children from more affluent backgrounds and are less likely to be reading at third grade level by third grade, the reverse is true for children who enter school ready. If they are reading at grade level by third grade, the likelihood that they will graduate from high school and go on to attend college and then move into careers increases dramatically.
Rather than waiting until K-12 schooling to impact children and having to spend exorbitant amounts on interventions later in their lives, ensuring that children have quality preschool experiences makes sense. The gains made in the earliest years last into adulthood and can break the cycle of poverty, as they did for me.
So how can all children in our city have access to quality child care? The Cincinnati Preschool Promise is an independent effort to provide universal access to high quality preschool for all three and four-year-olds in Cincinnati. It will provide tuition credits for all Cincinnati families to use to send their children of this age to a quality rated public or private preschool of their choice, regardless of income. Tuition credits will be provided on an income based sliding scale. The Preschool Promise is expected to serve about 5, 000 children in addition to those already served by Head Start.
Universal access to quality preschool will give ALL of our children the chance at a better life. We must extend a basic level of fairness and justice, if in this city alone, to the tens of thousands of children who have been denied that basic fairness and justice for far too long.
As I drove through the impoverished streets of Avondale on my way to attend a Preschool Promise Ambassador training, I passed the place where my preschool once stood. The poverty and limited possibilities surrounding it hit me in a powerful way, and I wondered where I would be had I not gone to preschool…
I ask you to join me in supporting the Cincinnati Preschool Promise. Become a Promise Ambassador today.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Much of this material adapted from The Cincinnati Preschool Promise Talking Points.