That’s not a headline that should be welcomed by anyone in this community. But, unfortunately, it is a fact.
Specifically, a draft report on statistics shared with the Early Childhood Alliance points out that “52.4 percent of kindergarteners in Boyle County lack the physical, linguistic, cognitive, social, or emotional skills necessary to benefit from instruction at the kindergarten level.
“These initial deficiencies have long-term effects, such as an increased likelihood of committing a crime, dropping out of school, and needing government assistance. Each dollar invested in high-quality early learning programs saves an estimated $2.50-$17.00 in the years ahead. These investments will enrich our future workforce, decrease social costs, add value to our community’s amenities, and support our current workforce in need of childcare.”
I have said it before, I am not a financial expert, but It would appear to me that a return on investment of that magnitude certainly warrants serious consideration on where monies are spent. I am, however, a numbers guy and statistics are particularly appealing. So let’s dive into a few more:
There are nearly 1,650 children in Boyle County age 4 and under, but fewer than 430 full-day childcare slots for them;
Of those 430-odd slots, 70 percent are rated as low quality by the state’s All-STARS rating system;
In doing a little simple math, and using round numbers, we have 1,650 preschoolers in the county and only 130 have access to quality early childhood education.
The median cost for one of those 430 slots is roughly $21 per day. The daily cost of providing for an inmate at the Boyle County Detention Center is around $30. As I have said repeatedly to anyone who will listen, we can spend on a child when (s)he’s 3 and still willing and eager to learn, or when (s)he’s 30 and imprisoned because “the system failed.”
So what do we do? The discussion about Early Childhood comes with some critically important recommendations:
Develop a collaborative network of providers
Promote a continued diversity of childcare settings
And the big one—strengthen community understanding of the importance of early childhood development through public awareness campaigns and supporting provider’s efforts to educate parents
You know the common theme in all of those recommendations? Financial resources.
I proudly represent the Danville Schools Education Foundation & Alumni Association. But you don’t have to contribute to us to make a difference—in all deference to my board. Give to us; give to Boyle County; give to non-profit providers of early childhood learning services; or give to the United Way, which is spearheading this community discussion. But give. We’re all going to benefit in the long-run.
As cited earlier, the dollar you spend today on early childhood will return as much as $17 in future benefits. The dollar you don’t spend today could well be manifested as $30 per day in future costs to house inmates. The choice is pretty obvious, and it is a choice. Yours.
As always, Go Ads!
This article originally appeared in the January 30, 2019 edition of The Advocate-Messenger.