Ky. Voices: Early-childhood reports show the good, bad and ironic

Early-childhood reports show work undone

March 14, 2013 

Terry Brooks is executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

The Governor's Office of Early Childhood released for the first time early childhood profiles on a county-by-county basis. It was a report filled with good news, bad news and irony.

First of all, this is a tool that can help communities and schools assess progress and make plans to help youngsters entering kindergarten. We were happy to see that KIDS COUNT data, which we track and report annually, proved useful for these profiles. And the Governor's Office of Early Childhood is to be commended for this effort. That is the good news.

Of course, the report itself paints a dim picture of preparedness for incoming kindergarten kids.

Just 28 percent of those youngsters demonstrated adequate knowledge and skills critical to school success. And communities simply have to come together and creatively develop locally based ideas to increase every incoming kindergarten student's shot at success. That is the bad news.

The irony is that because of recently announced cuts around child care supports and kinship care, it is almost inevitable that some vulnerable children will enter kindergarten less properly prepared to learn and succeed. The dramatic cuts will impact the very intellectual and emotional readiness that are prerequisites for success in school.

It is not too late. The governor can re-prioritize resources and stand tall for kids just as he has done in many areas before, such as access to the Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program. The big question is, "How can we get our legislators and the governor to devote as much time to protecting our young people from cuts as they are currently devoting to the state's pension problems?"

Let's hope the plight of Kentucky's youngest citizens commands the same attention as does the retirement puzzle.

These data portraits stand as a stark reminder that readiness to learn upon entering kindergarten is an investment we as a state must make. Gov. Steve Beshear is exactly right when he asserts that, "A child's earliest years play a critical role in future achievements."

That is why he cannot allow his own administration's announced cuts to become a reality for Kentucky's children. The cuts are bad for kids and bad for the commonwealth's own future achievements.

The cuts are a penny-wise and pound-foolish proposition. It is a decision that needs to be turned on its head on behalf of kids.

For a look at county profiles on early-childhood education, go to http://kidsnow.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx.

Terry Brooks is executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

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