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Another Voice: Congress should back president’s preschool initiative

By Jerry Castiglia

President Obama has proposed the creation of a new program that would provide a full day of preschool for every 4-year-old child in the United States whose family is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government also would provide incentives to states to offer preschool to children from families above this income threshold using non-federal resources.

Read to Succeed Buffalo urges our congressional delegation to support the creation of the president’s program – Preschool For All. We also urge Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to urge Congress to pass the president’s preschool initiative because the benefits to New York State, including Buffalo, would be significant.

The president is proposing that funds for the program be allocated to states and then distributed to local school districts and other early learning providers in partnership with school districts. This would include child care providers, community-based organizations and private and faith-based providers in order to implement high-quality preschool programming and services.

The president’s program would establish a common definition of quality for all preschool programs, including elements such as a full-day program; high staff qualifications; small class sizes; developmentally appropriate, evidence-based curricula; ongoing program evaluation; comprehensive services, and competitive teacher salaries.

Every child should have access to high-quality preschool programs. Studies show that children from all income and racial groups benefit from high-quality preschool. The benefits of preschool are particularly powerful among children from low-income families who, on average, start kindergarten 12 to 14 months behind their peers in pre-reading and language skills.

The president’s proposal is only a request; it is not real unless Congress agrees to pass it. We have a lot of work ahead of us to make this proposal a reality. Please join Read to Succeed Buffalo in urging the members of our congressional delegation to support Preschool For All.

Jerry Castiglia is chairman of Read to Succeed Buffalo.