Written by Former Gov. Jack Markell
Learning does not begin when a student walks into class the first day of kindergarten or end when a student walks across the stage to receive a diploma. Children who lack access to quality early education can start kindergarten well behind their classmates. They discover early on that the distance they need to travel from “A-B-C” to a high school or college degree requires much more work and significantly more resources.
Where you start in life should never limit how far you can go if you work and study hard. But the research is clear: kids with access to quality early childhood education are less likely to be disruptive in school and more likely to graduate. They go on to earn more, contribute more and require far fewer government services.
Clearly, early childhood education is an investment that pays economic and educational dividends. We have set an ambitious goal – to move from 20 to 80 percent of low-income kids with access to quality-rated early childhood education programs. We’re making the investments needed to get those results. Together with the legislature, we invested $22 million of state resources in early education in 2011, which later that year helped us compete for and secure an additional grant from the federal Early Learning Challenge.
We know that these investments will help more students achieve better results, in part by providing additional incentives and accountability for early childhood education programs. That’s why we have been working to expand the number of programs enrolled in the voluntary “Delaware Stars-for-Early-Success” quality rating system. Programs will receive higher reimbursement rates for students of need as they improve in quality. Simply put – Stars rewards high-quality programs with additional resources, gives programs technical assistance to improve and gives parents insight into program quality.
We are not alone in this effort. We benefit from a community of advocates for early childhood spanning the public, nonprofit and private sectors. We find these advocates in leading roles as educators, administrators, pediatricians, business leaders, child health and development experts, parents and legislators. We benefit from talented staff from the Delaware Department of Education; Department of Health and Social Services; Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families, and the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood who support them.
Though the work is far from over, we joined those leaders to take a few hours this week to reflect on our exciting progress so far in 2012. We have more than doubled the programs participating in Stars and the number of programs at the highest Star Levels.
We salute the centers who are stepping up to say – “Let us show you what we can do.” We are encouraged by the number of centers committed to becoming even better and earning additional Stars. But more importantly, we are moved by the number of people across the state who have offered their help to make sure that more children get a more equitable shot at success – to ensure that kids show up their first day of school not only more ready to learn, but more ready to grab the promise and potential our state’s public schools provide them.
What began as a journey in 2007, is a reality today, but it’s not over. Hear Governor Markell’s updated message.