As we debate budgetary priorities nationally, our collective failure to fully fund early learning and high quality after-school programs for all children is a disaster for working parents throughout Florida.
Statistics from independent studies strongly support the benefits of effective after-school programs, particularly for those at risk and families that are economically challenged.
Other studies offer concrete statistics that effective after-school programs can improve classroom behavior, school attendance, academic aspirations, reduce the tendency toward dropping out, and drug use. Some studies even show a reduction in criminal behavior, lower instances of obesity and greater physical activity.
Working families need a cost-effective way to ensure their children are at a safe place after school. Decreased productivity has been estimated to cost up to $300 billion annually, according to Brandeis University, Community, Families and Work Program.
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Dollar-for-dollar early learning initiatives are some of the best investments. To meet reading readiness by the third grade, we cannot succeed without truly committing to broad, effective and comprehensive strategies.
Yet, in Florida, we spend less than $2,500 per child in pre-K programs; the national average is $4,250. Florida’s early learning initiative enrolls many children but meets only three of 10 quality standards, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. This failure is attributed to, in part, our limited funding commitment.
The success of communities, businesses and the economy depend on preparing our children for the challenges of the next century. To succeed, we must collectively invest in our children and secure the dedicated commitment of communities, businesses and, most of all, our elected officials at every level.
Walter “Skip” Campbell, mayor, Coral Springs,
Michael Ryan, mayor,