NM Kids Count: Early childhood education underfunded

ALSO:The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success” (.pdf)

Troy Wilde | Public News Service – NM

ALBUQUERQUE — There should be greater focus and more funding for high-quality education during the critical first eight years of a child’s life, according to Christine Hollis, Kids Count director, New Mexico Voices for Children. She cited research in the new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Project, “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success.”

The study found that children who get higher-quality education in the early years are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. Hollis said preschools should be staffed with qualified teachers.

“It should have sort of a curriculum or a program that is developmentally appropriate so it’s been designed for the age groupings of the kids and what happens at certain stages,” Hollis said.

More needs to be done for early education in New Mexico, where about one-third of all children live in poverty, she added, noting that the majority of kids are in low-income families. Research involving 13,000 children nationally found that just 36 percent of third-graders are on track in cognitive knowledge and skills.

The report shows that just 19 percent of third-graders in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level, and half of those in families with incomes above that level, had developed age-appropriate cognitive skills. It also found that just 14 percent of African-American children and 19 percent of Hispanic children are on track in cognitive development.

Hollis said the research proves that investing in early education is worth every dollar.

“A lot of research has shown it’s going to pay us really in the long run to invest more in our children at the very early stages, than spending a lot of the money we do from budgets on sort of remedial programs – and that even includes prisons,” she explained.

The Kids Count report concluded that there should be better access to high-quality programs for kids age 8 and under. It also recommended making bigger investments in programs that target low-income children.

“The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success,” is available at www.aecf.org.

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