From the front lines: Pre-K works

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Each school year, across Allegheny County, we welcome thousands of new kindergarten students into our classrooms. Some know colors and shapes. Some can recite numbers and letters. Some have experience with cooperation and taking turns.

Every kindergartener arrives with varying strengths and needs as a result of a wide range of early-learning experiences.

Several studies demonstrate that children who attend high-quality early-learning programs are better prepared — socially, emotionally and cognitively — for kindergarten. As kindergarten teachers from across Allegheny County, we see these results in our classrooms.

Before day one of a child’s school career, 90 percent of his or her brain development has occurred. It’s easy to spot a child who attended a high-quality early-learning program — which is why all young children in Allegheny County deserve to have access to such a program prior to walking into a kindergarten classroom.

As Allegheny County residents head to the voting booth Tuesday, they can support our children by voting yes for the Allegheny County Children’s Fund, which would increase real estate taxes slightly to provide access for all to high-quality early-learning programs, after-school programs and nutritious meals — three services that are proven to yield success for our children.

Currently in Allegheny County, more than half of 3- and 4-year-olds don’t have access to high-quality pre-K. We have to fix this because we know firsthand that pre-K makes a difference.

Children develop critical social and emotional skills in early-learning environments, such as how to share and cooperate with their peers and regulate their emotions. These early social interactions are connected to cognitive skills like language development.

Pre-K also gives children time to work on physical growth, including fine motor skills like how to hold a pencil or scissors. And it helps instill a love for learning. Children enter elementary school more prepared to reach their full academic potential.

As if that’s not enough, it’s been shown that high-quality early-learning programs save families and schools money by improving children’s health and school readiness, while reducing future crime.

This is a defining moment for Allegheny County to make a commitment to our youngest citizens. As teachers, we want our children to feel successful and comfortable when they enter our classrooms. The structure of school — rules, expectations, routines, etc. — take time to learn. Let’s offer our young learners the experiences they need to enter kindergarten feeling excited, prepared and confident on their first day.

Vote yes to create the Allegheny County Children’s Fund.

This op-ed was submitted on behalf of kindergarten and pre-K teachers Chuck Herring (South Fayette); Jaclyn Kean (Avonworth); Tamara Ekis (McKeesport); Erin Sypin (McKeesport); Amanda Galloway (Gateway); Stephanie Forga (Gateway); Sara Podvasnik (Duquense); and Nicole Eiben (Duquesne).

Read the full story here.