President Obama Proposes Preschool for All Children
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- As part of a broader effort to strengthen the middle class, President Obama proposed making universal preschool education available to all children in America in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Currently, some states already have this universal preschool program implemented, but not here in Colorado.
It’s something officials with School District 51 say would help greatly.
“We watch and monitor their growth and make sure they are all growing at their own individual pace,” said Joann Sarnac, preschool teacher at Chipeta Elementary. “We always want to see growth.”
On an adverage day, Sarnac says she teaches students life skills at an early-age, a trait they learn through play.
However, since School District 51 works through the Colorado Preschool Program, the early-skills these kids are learning aren’t available to all kids in the area. They could only be offered to kids that meet certain standards.
“It’s really hard to tell those parents that we don't have enough room,” Kim Self, early childhood education coordinator at School District 51 said. “It’s not that we don't want to serve them, it’s just that we do not have enough slots available.”
The school district can offer only 425 slots, but has a waiting list that ranges from anywhere between 200 to 300 preschoolers. This limit leaves those students to learn certain prerequisite skills like social and emotional support on their own.
“We embed early literacy, early math and we have standards just like K-12 schools to support the learner,” Self said.
School officials say some feel that education starts when students enter kindergarten, but really, it starts at birth and goes until school age, which is why these preschool years are important.
“If all children had access to an early childhood program, then they would be able to have that foundation and all of those developmentally appropriate practices,” said Self.
“Children learn from each other and with the different varying of languages all across the board would be a great advantage,” said Sarnac.
Officials say this stage is also a good time to detect any possible learning disabilities students may have so they can address, and help the child at a young age.
“We have research that demonstrates that those children who have delays in a certain areas or they have risk factors just because of how life happens with little preschoolers, that with good, solid early-childhood experience, they will close the gap,” said Self.
School District 51 offers 26 sites, with both morning and afternoon sessions. Since you need low pupil-to-teacher ratio in preschool, there is never anymore than 15 children in a classroom.
It’s unclear how School District 51 and school administrations across the county would cover the cost of a plan like the one President Obama is offering. However, this past December, the state was awarded nearly $30 million in federal funding to support programs like preschool.