Investing In Early Childhood Education Creates Long-Term Benefits

Providing every child with a strong foundation for learning matters. Research suggests that quality pre-kindergarten and educational readiness lead to increased high school graduation rates, higher earnings, less crime and a stronger workforce.

The more prepared students are as they enter kindergarten – with social, emotional, and academic development – the better off they are and the better off we are as a community.

That is why the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners has such a strong commitment to early childhood readiness. It has been a strategic priority for the past five years, and the county has made great strides to increase funding to our public schools and develop additional educational programming for children.

Most recently, with the help of New Hanover County Schools, Smart Start of New Hanover County, the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and other community partners, the commissioners made a three-year commitment of $476,000 to fund three new pre-k classrooms, serving 45 additional three-year-olds in our county.

This is the first time New Hanover County government has specifically funded the creation of pre-k classrooms but – personally and professionally – I hope it won’t be the last.

The classrooms, which opened in October at Mosley Performance Learning Center, are modeled after evidence-based pre-k curriculums that have yielded benefits for children, schools and communities. Each class is taught by a licensed teacher with a college degree, provides a high-quality learning environment that is rated five stars by the state, and offers a continuum of services both inside and outside the classroom.

In addition to a structured pre-k curriculum that focuses on language, physical and social development, this initiative also includes a dedicated team focused on the child’s and family’s wellbeing to make sure they are given the right resources at the right time.

For instance, students will have mental health screenings, as well as vision and hearing tests, so that any issues can be identified early and interventions can be made to remove impediments to their learning.

The Health Department’s Mobile Dental Unit will provide services to the children, the county’s public library will bring the Raising a Reader Program to the classrooms and into homes, and parenting classes with Smart Start will be offered to help families succeed together.

Quality pre-k education has been recognized as an integral part of efforts to help close the achievement gap that exist at the time children enter kindergarten, and that can persist until they enter the workforce.
These new classrooms will help close that gap for some of the county’s most at-risk children and the benefits will go well beyond kindergarten.

That’s because, based on national data, classrooms like these provide a clear path for opportunity, self-sufficiency and empowerment. By helping to increase a child’s chance for success into adulthood, our community will gain a more educated workforce that earns higher wages and productively contributes to the economy.

Every dollar we invest in early learning programs for vulnerable children will also save us in future expenditures for special education and the criminal justice system.

I am proud to say we are helping improve the lives of 45 more children in New Hanover County, creating a better-prepared workforce, and enhancing long-term economic benefits to families through these new classrooms. We are investing in our children and our families today, tomorrow and for the future.

I encourage you to watch this short video that was produced by the New Hanover County Communications and Outreach Department about this important pre-k expansion.

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