NEED: Almost 49,000 kids under the age of 18 call Buncombe County home. Among them are toddlers and pre-school age kids who are going through critical developmental stages. But right now, one in four of our kids lives in poverty and at least one in four face food insecurity at home.
This is a moral crisis. Critical efforts are underway in our community to address this, like creating more living wage jobs to help families move out of poverty. But we must do more.
POLICY PRIORITY: My top policy priority as a Commissioner will be establishing Universal Pre-K Early Childhood Education across Buncombe County. Excellent early childhood education changes lives; numerous educational studies have demonstrated that, by the time many children reach public kindergarten, the patterns wrought by hunger and poverty are too entrenched to break.
Pre-K is crucial to a child’s development. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, “… preschool has substantial impacts on cognitive development, on social and emotional development.”
Pre-K is also a racial justice issue. The Center for Public Education has found that investing in Pre-K can help close achievement gaps:
A national study of children who attended a center-based pre-k program scored significantly higher on reading and math tests than [peers not in the program] (Magnuson, et al. 2004). The benefits were even more pronounced for minority and low-income children who typically start kindergarten 12 to 14 months behind their peers, highlighting the value high-quality pre-k has for efforts to close achievement gaps (Stark 2009).
Pre-K helps kids access opportunities over a lifetime. The Washington Post reports:
[Research shows] that in later adulthood, kids who benefit from early childhood education earned more than kids who did not. In some cases, the earnings premium goes as high as 25 percent.
We deserve county policies that are consistent with our values. Because public education is a cornerstone of our community, it is one of the best ways to deliver on the promise of equal opportunity to every child.
To ensure all children, regardless of economic background, are given a chance to flourish, we must to create and expand programs so that all preschool age children in Buncombe County have access to food, to books, to loving teachers; in short, all preschool age children deserve the opportunity to learn.