October 22, 2013

Letters to the editor: Early education key to later success

A proposed high-quality preschool program for low-income kids will help advance Maine’s economy.

I was captivated by your recent news article about an inmate at the Cumberland County jail who was illiterate until age 21, and thus turned to a life of crime since he was unsuccessful in school and had no skills for employment (“Maine jail officials back report calling for early childhood education,” Oct. 3).

click image to enlarge

Laneer Reed-Fryer works on a construction-themed project during a prekindergarten class at a public school in Buffalo, N.Y., in March. A state-federal proposal to expand access to early learning programs could lead to 6,700 more high school graduates in Maine, a reader says.

2013 File Photo/The Associated Press

Like our law enforcement leaders, many Maine business leaders also support increasing access to high-quality early learning programs for more children.

We know from numerous studies reported from business leader organizations like America’s Edge that high-quality early education is a key to academic success.

It starts kids out on the path for success in K-12 education and into college, and helps build the foundation of soft and hard skills our workplaces require in today’s globalized economy.

Congress should support the proposed state-federal partnership to provide Maine and other states with the resources to create a voluntary high-quality preschool program to serve low- to moderate-income 4-year-olds.

Across the country, state policymakers have recognized and valued the nonpartisan opportunity to do what’s right for our youngest children. In 2013 alone, 26 states – some with Republican governors and others with Democratic governors – have proposed or approved significant expansions of state preschool programs.

Maine should follow this trend to ensure more children are ready when they start school. It is an economic opportunity that only presents itself once, and can help move our future workforce and economy forward.

Eileen Skinner

president and CEO, Mercy Hospital

Portland

I appreciate Maine law enforcement leaders’ steadfast support for expanding high-quality early education in Maine (“Maine jail officials back report calling for early childhood education,” Oct. 3). I know their convictions are grounded in the fact that people who drop out of school are more at risk to become involved in later crime.

As a retired Army general, I am also concerned that lack of education is a leading disqualifier for future military service, if that is a career goal for a young person.

Poor educational achievement is one of the three key reasons why an amazing 75 percent of all young Americans are unable to join the military, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. (Other major disqualifying factors include being overweight and having a criminal record.)

Decades of research have shown that investing in high-quality early education is one of the most effective ways to ensure that each child graduates from high school, abides by the law and becomes a contributing member of society.

Work is being done right now in Congress to craft a state-federal early learning proposal that gives states around the nation resources to create, strengthen and expand quality pre-K programs and support for child development for children from birth to age 3.

Implementation of this 10-year proposal will put millions of children on the path to long-term academic achievement, and it could lead to 6,700 more high school graduates here and $500 million in economic benefits for Maine. That’s good for Maine’s future, and for our nation’s security.

Wallace Nutting

general, U.S. Army (retired)

Saco

Column on acts of kindness both refreshing, inspiring

Thank you, Bill Nemitz, for an uplifting story about the wonderful women of Cape Elizabeth and South Portland who have so generously and kindly been providing Valerie Kibala with rides to her job, where the buses leave off (“Want a lift? Valerie’s volunteer drivers show how it’s done,” Oct. 9).

It’s great to read about acts of good will and kindness that we do know exist within our society. Nowadays, it seems all we see in the news and read in our papers and online is about crime, greed, corruption, murder and political acting out.

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