Bright Beginnings, a necessary and effective intervention for Charlotte's most at-risk children is slated for a 60% reduction next year. The County Commission has an opportunity to keep 1800+ children in the program next year by writing a special grant similar to one written previously for high school reform.
As stated in The Children's Alliance Bright Beginnings Fact Sheet, "It positively impacts school performance. According to evaluation conducted in 1998-2001, a higher percentage of Bright Beginnings participants met or exceeded grade level performance at the end of kindergarten and first grade on year–end literacy and mathematics (relative to eligible non-participants). Gains were even more significant for minority children receiving free and reduced lunch. (www.cms2.k12.nc.us/cmsdepartments/ci/pre-kservices/Pages/ComparisonStudy.aspx)"
Bright Beginnings is a cost- effective strategy, even during a budget crisis! Research is clear, says RAND Corporation, a non- profit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis, that high quality preschool improves children’s achievement test scores, decreases the likelihood of special education placement, and reduces the rates of teen pregnancy and teen arrest. Additionally, the average benefit in quality early childhood education for low-income 4-yr-olds equals $9,901/child. Early interventions for economically-at-risk have higher rates of return (15% to 17%) than later intervention. (www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2005/RAND_MG341.pdf)
Some have called Bright Beginnings free daycare. In fact, it maintains rigorous expectations for the families it serves. If they do not comply, they can be removed from the program so that families who are truly committed to their children's education may be placed.
Others are saying parents should take sole responsibility for preparing their children for academic success, including those parents who utilize Bright Beginnings. Could these parents, many of whom subsist below the poverty level, take more of a role in their children’s school readiness? In some cases, they could. However, believing something could or should happen does not make it so. How many people of this opinion have lived a day in the life of someone in poverty? Bright Beginnings is doing what many parents are simply not able to do. To end the discussion by saying parents should take over the role of early intervention is to be an irresponsible citizen. That simply may not be possible for all families. Without Bright Beginnings, these children will enter school under-prepared and will be at an increased risk for lowered academic performance.
Consider the fact that by age three, children living in households struggling with poverty are exposed to 30 million fewer words than their peers who do not live in poverty. (Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of American Children.) Imagine these children starting Kindergarten. Imagine their disadvantage as they try to learn and keep up without the necessary background knowledge. Now picture a year of intentional, strategic, targeted literacy instruction aimed directly at giving them oral language, expressive and receptive vocabulary, book and print awareness, phonemic awareness and phonological awareness skills. Add to that math, science, and social/emotional instruction and you will see how Bright Beginnings gives these members of society a fighting chance at academic success.
Please tell the County Commission that Bright Beginnings needs their support. Tell them to create the special grant Commissioner Vilma Leake has discussed and use it to fund Bright Beginnings.