As students went back to school this fall, we asked Americans to share their stories of struggle accessing preschool. Many moms, dads and educators from across the country have experienced this difficulty firsthand and their stories reflect the realities far too many families face.
The stories of Matt, Kristi and Mary are powerful examples of the challenges many people experience finding affordable, high-quality early learning programs while also highlighting the immense benefits children and families reap from these programs.
Matt from Iowa.
Matt says his son was able to benefit from early childhood education only because of a speech delay he had. Had it not been for the diagnosis, their family would not have been able to afford to send him to preschool.
Kristi from Texas.
Kristi shared that she worked for Child Protective Services in Texas for 10 years.
“For many of the children and families that [we] served, Early Head Start, Head Start and pre-K programs were vital,” she writes. “It not only allowed the children an opportunity to be educated and to develop positive social skills, it also afforded parents a better opportunity to secure employment.”
“Many parents were unable to obtain employment due to the high cost of childcare. For children who had not been removed from their home, as well as those who were in a reunification phase, having children in these early education programs also provided an extra set of eyes for the Department that would afford us more information regarding observable behavior of the children and parents. All children deserve the opportunity to be safe and educated. [We need to] take the necessary actions to ensure and sustain program funding.”
Mary from Minnesota.
Mary shared that her second son “was proving to be quite the challenge by the age of 3. We tried everything we could think of to help his trigger temper from being set off. And then when it did explode, held him physically close and rocked him till exhaustion put him (and sometimes us) to sleep. His verbal skills were slow in coming along, but we knew he was smart as a whip. When the opportunity for him to attend Head Start came up when he was 4, we jumped at the chance for him to enroll.”
“At the time, preschools were few and very expensive,” Mary said. “We were impressed with Head Start’s focus on the entire family dynamic. Also the emphasis on parental involvement in the classroom (when possible) and in activities in the community. Our son’s verbal skills were addressed and he improved well enough to begin kindergarten at age 5. He’s now a successful, financially independent young man with a strong sense of community responsibility. Without Head Start, so many of our Gen Xers and millennials would be lost to our society.”
These stories reflect the realities of accessing preschool in America. Parents and caregivers want to give their children the very best start to life, but too often the lack of access and high price tag prevent them from sending their children to early learning programs.