President Obama is coming to Decatur on Thursday to talk about his plans to expand access to preschool. Georgia’s pre-k program “Bright From The Start” is considered a national leader.
President Obama will tour an early learning center in the metro Atlanta city, then talk about his plan to provide all low and moderate income 4-year-olds with high quality preschool. He also wants to reach more middle class children and incentivize full-day kindergarten policies.
Bright From The Start Commissioner Bobby Cagle told GPB’s PrimeTime Lawmakers last week that a recent study found Georgia’s program is working.
“Children, on average in this program, move from below average in language, mathematics and social skills to above the national average at the completion of the year,” he said.
Cagle said such programs are crucial to a child’s future academic success.
“You’ll see them working on things that help them form patterns. Patterns help them learn higher level math skills. You’ll see them participating in activities that build vocabulary. You’ll see them participating in reading book. All designed to help them with literacy, which we know is key to children being able to read on grade level by third grade,” he said.
Mindy Binderman, with the advocacy group Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, says one way to make the program even better is to add family support coordinators.
“It’s not just what happens in the classroom, it’s what happens at home. And connecting families and parents and getting them engaged in early education is so important,” she said.
Georgia’s pre-K program has served more than a million children in ITS 20 years. But thousands remain on a waiting list.
Mindy Binderman said demand exceeds supply. “Our number of pre-K slots in the state is determined by the Governor, who makes that determination based on lottery proceeds. And so we do not have enough pre-K slots to cover all the kids whose parents want to enroll them in pre-K.”
The governor has cut the number of days the program serves children in recent years because of lower lottery proceeds. But he has proposed restoring the program to a full 180 day calendar starting this fall.