Investment in Pre-K is critical to moving the needle on the vision and mission of Forward Arkansas, endorsed by the Arkansas Department of Education, Walton Family Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and dozens of leading education and workforce development organizations across the state, to improve student achievement at a historically ambitious yet achievable rate and close the achievement gap within a generation.
Be vocal. Ask your legislators for additional funding of voluntary, high-quality pre-K to all children in our state. Send a personalized email or phone call to your lawmakers, asking them to support high-quality, voluntary pre-K this session.
Don’t know who your Senator and Representative are? Find your legislator at the link below.
By investing in high-quality Pre-K we make sure our students start their academic career ahead and stay ahead from the beginning. We know that students who have a strong start, become educated, productive members of our workforce.
Early Literacy and School Readiness
Arkansas’ goal is for all school children to read on grade level by the end of third grade – a pivotal point in a child’s cognitive development and academic learning. It is at this time that children transition from learning to read into reading to learn, which prepares students for success through the duration of their school years. However, current reading assessments show that only 31 percent of Arkansas third graders are actually reading on grade level, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Closing this literacy gap will be critical to moving Arkansas children forward.
An abundance of research has shown that the academic achievement gap begins as a school readiness gap. Scientists seem to agree that at least 85 percent of a child’s core brain structure is formed in the first three years of life and that establishes either a sturdy or fragile foundation for everything that follows.
Poverty Hinders Success
Twenty-nine percent of Arkansas children, from birth to age 5, live in poverty. Research has found that children in poverty hear roughly 30 million fewer words, compared to their more affluent peers, by the time they enter Kindergarten. In fact, the average vocabulary for an impoverished child entering Kindergarten is less than 500 words.
High School Graduation and Workforce Preparedness
Many soft skills children learn – like character, communication and social skills – make them more successful in school, higher ed and in their future employment. These are skills that employers demand, so investing in Pre-K meets these critical workforce needs.
Incarceration and Re-Entry
When our kids have these early learning opportunities, they are more likely to build the critical skills that lay the foundation for future academic success and make it less likely that they will eventually drop out. That is important — seven out of 10 inmates in state prisons do not have a high school diploma.
Healthy Minds and Bodies
Access to high-quality, voluntary pre-K is a smart investment from a public health standpoint. Economically disadvantaged children are more likely to be vaccinated and have access to healthy meals. Early childhood programs benefit school achievement, encourage grade retention, and reduce preventable special education placement. Children also develop better social skills and heightened self-esteem.