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Published by The Desert Sun, Mar. 24, 2013
Quality preschool is an investment in the future 


Rachel Gubman COD

What does it mean to “invest in the future?” Here are some real-life, local examples:

A hearing 4-year-old, with two deaf parents who speak American Sign Language, comes to preschool for the first time, learns a “second language” — English — and leaves ready for a regular kindergarten

A young mother, whose baby was 10 weeks premature, needs more education so she can provide for her child, finds a program that lets 1-year-old Lily eat and sleep on her own schedule, not that of the school.

A terrified 2-year-old, whose primary caregiver, Grandma, has passed away, comes to school and learns, after being held (almost continuously) for the first six weeks, that she can trust her teachers to be gentle, kind and responsive.

These examples come from real children at the McCarthy Child Development & Training Center at the College of the Desert. We change the lives of families every year by providing high-quality care for children ages 1 to 5, while their parents attend school and work. Most of our families simply could not pay for quality preschool, which averages about $200 a week for full-day programs.

Our school could not do it without the support of the state of California, funding from First 5 Riverside (state cigarette tax dollars) and generous grantors such as the Desert Healthcare District and the Anderson, McCarthy and COD foundations. Many of our parents also find employment at the center, where student workers support our trained teachers. These parent/ workers go on to complete their degrees in early childhood education and find employment in our field. We are fortunate that so many people here agree that our children are worth the investment. We wish similar programs were available to more children in California and the nation.

Research clearly shows that universal preschool is simply good social policy. The science of brain development now confirms with hard evidence the critical importance of enhanced early childhood experiences. We also have 40 years of data on the long-term outcomes of preschool programs that deploy trained teachers, adequate materials and appropriate support for families.

The result: Every $1 spent in a high quality preschool program saves $7 later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy and even lowering violent crime, according to the Perry Preschool Project in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Virtually all wealthy and upper middle class children have access to good preschool programs. But what if paying for an expensive private preschool is not an option? Do we as a country have any obligation to the well-being of our youngest citizens? We know that Head Start changes lives for the better every year. Let’s recognize that a child who by age four learns how to play with others, how to pay attention during group time, and that school is a safe and welcoming place, is a child who is much more likely to grow up to be a productive citizen.

High-quality preschool is expensive, but as the Perry Preschool Project has demonstrated, not any more expensive than any other year of K-12 education. What if we rethought our approach and put more resources into the beginning, when neural pathways in the brain are growing exponentially, when becoming bilingual is still easy, and when learning trust and confidence has the greatest impact? Wouldn’t we all be much better off? Our most important natural resource is our children. Let’s invest wisely in their future, and ours, by providing the best beginnings possible.

Rachel Gubman is a curriculum coach with the McCarthy Child Development & Training Center at the College of the Desert. As a consultant she helped the center earn its accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Gubman began her career as a work-study student at the Cornell University Laboratory Nursery School in 1966. She completed her master’s at the Bank Street College of Education. She taught child development and related courses at Portland Community College in Oregon and was the director of the lab school at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Email her at rgubman@yahoo.com