Centre College study: Early childhood education 'essential'

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Posted at 5:13 PM, Jan 25, 2023

DANVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Economics and Finance students at Centre College researched one of Kentucky's most debated topics: universal pre-Kindergarten. The research points to positives for Kentucky's economy.

"We've really found that early childhood education is essential to our economy," said Drake Kawa, a student who worked on the project.

Kawa explained that their research suggests "early childhood care and education leads to both immediate and long-term benefits."

The report states that "many of these benefits go to the child in terms of higher future earnings, but some benefits also go to businesses and community members through increased workforce participation or lower social costs."

So, why isn't every state implementing universal pre-K? Students point to difficulties when it comes to policy-making.

"Policy-makers, I think, are having a hard time seeing too far out," said Kawa. "I think a lot of times in our society, we look at the short term - what are we going to get in the short term? What's going to get us that profit and value now? Well - early childhood education - we've come to find out is not something we're going to see the value or gain from right now. It's something that we see long term - down the road."

Representative Josie Raymond, a big supporter of universal pre-K, watched Wednesday's presentation. She believes momentum is building in Kentucky.

"I think it's something we're going to keep pursuing in the coming years," said Raymond. "It's going to take a little bit of time to figure out the finances and the model that's going to work. But we've got momentum."

Raymond also emphasized something the students' research pointed to - a mixed delivery model working best for Kentucky.

According to the research, a mixed delivery model of universal pre-K "involves blending funding from multiple sources."

The report explains that an example of a mixed delivery model is "a publicly employed preschool teacher working in a childcare center that serves kids who are eligible for childcare subsidies."

Rep. Raymond reiterated that this allows working parents to choose the type of program that best fits their needs.

"Kids can access pre-K not just in public schools, but in private child care centers, faith-based centers, home-based centers," she said. "We really need to meet families where they are."