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Politics

Preschool doors should be open to all

Esther J. Cepeda on

Salud America! says that 28 percent of Latino youth suffer four or more traumatic experiences such as parental domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, criminal justice involvement, child abuse, neglect, poverty/homelessness, or parental death.

It's difficult to write about such harrowing statistics. They reinforce the negative stereotypes that people, especially educators, have about Latino children, feeding the sense that these kids are beyond hope, while ignoring that not all Hispanic kids are disadvantaged.

But the truth is that even though you don't have to look very far to find Hispanic valedictorians, and successful Latino business owners, brain surgeons and astronauts, a great deal of Hispanic children are in crisis. The bright side is that more widely available preschool for Latino kids can help close academic gaps before they become a life sentence of low achievement.

Universal preschool is not a magic bullet for all that ails public schools or low-income families. But it can be a much-needed intervention for the most vulnerable of Hispanic students, who are expected to make up about a third of all public-school students by the year 2026.

As of now, only 14 cents of every public education dollar are spent on early childhood education. This gives the edge to parents and families who can afford to put their kids in high-quality, unsubsidized preschool programs, while leaving the needy even further behind.

The low funding represents a lack of foresight and an ignorance of well-established research showing that the prekindergarten years are the most important, developmentally, for all children.

 

But ultimately, any money dedicated to preventing Hispanic infants from falling two years behind their peers before kindergarten even starts is peanuts compared to the costs of remedial education, social welfare programs and incarceration.

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Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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