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Why early learning matters in this election

This piece, co-written by LEV Policy Analyst Tracy Sherman and LEV Early Learning Community Organizer April Ritter, originally appeared in ParentMap on October 25th, 2012.

We all know we should care about elections, and we’ve heard that this year is especially important for education. This election is important for education at all levels, but some of the most affected students will be our state’s youngest — those younger than five.

The next governor and legislature will make big decisions about services that help our state’s littlest learners get ready for school and life. Programs like free preschool for low-income children and all-day kindergarten for all students are so impactful because 85 percent of a baby’s brain develops before age five — and most of it before age three. Rich learning environments during these years, whether in preschools, childcare centers or a neighbor’s back yard, can make a huge difference in a child’s life.

Crystal Garvin, mother of three, knows first-hand the importance of these programs. Her family has worked hard to succeed, but last year, she had to quit her job in her field because her wage was not enough to pay for childcare. Fortunately, her children are able to qualify for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), the state’s preschool program for low-income children, and they could attend preschool, despite the cost.

Research tells us that high-quality early learning is important for all children, but it has an even greater impact on low-income children who often face a number of risk factors and start kindergarten behind their peers. While it is possible for children to catch up to where they should be academically, it is hard.

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