Raising the sales tax to provide a preschool education for about 8000 more 3- and 4-year-olds in Tucson may strike some people as unnecessary and even infuriating. But enabling more children to attend high-quality preschools is a wise investment that can prevent more expensive problems later on. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Preschool fosters social and emotional development: Young children need to develop empathy, learn to control their impulses, and manage their anger and frustrations—and that’s what happens in a high-quality preschool where children feel secure and cared for and where they’re taught the social/emotional skills that will help them to succeed in school and in life.
- Preschool promotes language and cognitive skills: Preschool teachers help children stretch their vocabularies by reading aloud and talking with them during activities. In addition, young children’s cognitive skills are strengthened when they engage in a wide range of hands-on activities that challenge them to observe closely, ask questions, and solve problems.
- Preschool teaches children to be competent and to feel competent: As children set the table at snack time, feed the goldfish, and put materials away in the proper place, they not only develop new competencies, they develop an image of themselves as competent people who are able to take care of themselves and their environment.
- Preschool prepares children for kindergarten: Kindergartens are becoming the new first grade, so it’s more important than ever to prepare children for the academic demands they will face. But this doesn’t mean teaching early literacy and math skills through mind-numbing drills. Teachers in high-quality preschools know how to introduce skills in the context of activities that are engaging and meaningful. Children also learn the behaviors required to function successfully in kindergarten, such as listening while others are speaking, cooperating with peers, and following directions.
By supporting Strong Start Tucson, we can make a difference in the lives of 8000 children who otherwise would not be able to afford preschool. This is not only the humane thing to do; it’s also the smart thing to do: If we pay now so children can reap the benefits of attending high-quality preschool, we won’t have to pay more later on for interventions to remediate the problems.
Emerita Professor of Early Childhood/Elementary Education
Rutgers Graduate School of Education