Press Room

Quigley and Condon: Head Start helps make children citizen-ready

By Kathleen Quigley and Edward Condon | Special to the Arizona Daily Star | Oct 21, 2018

From our different backgrounds — one as former prosecutor, and the other an early childhood education administrator — when we came across young people having done something dumb or really dangerous, there came the thought: “I wish I had the superpower to change opportunities for him. To improve his odds. To help him be his best self.”

From our combined years of experience in law and administering early childhood programs — working with other officials, experts and agencies — we know that a superpower does exist to make a child a worthy citizen, good and successful. The power is early education, with engaged parents...

D.C.’s Universal Pre-K Program Is Keeping More Women In The Workforce

HuffPost Politics|Dave Jamieson|September 26, 2018

Free, universal preschool in Washington, D.C., has made it much more likely that mothers of young children will join the city’s workforce, according to a new study by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

The city’s novel preschool program, rolled out in 2009, has increased mothers’ labor force participation rate by roughly 10 percentage points, the study estimates. D.C. women with children ages 5 or younger are now just as likely to be working or looking for a job as women whose kids are in elementary school or older.

The findings make a strong case for putting public dollars toward robust preschool programs so parents can continue working, rather than quit their jobs or go on hiatus until their children reach kindergarten, said Rasheed Malik, the study’s author.

Report Arizona Misses Opportunities to Help Young Parents

Public News Service|September 26, 2018

PHOENIX - About 92,000 children in Arizona have parents who are between the ages of 18 and 24, and a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report highlights the obstacles those young moms and dads face.

Age 18 to 24 is when many people are pursuing a degree or beginning a career, but that's especially challenging for those who can't access affordable child care. Dana Naimark, president and chief executive of the Children's Action Alliance, said millions of federal dollars for child care are available to Arizona but sitting unused, and Arizona's reimbursement program to help child-care providers enroll low-income children hasn't updated its rates in 18 years. She said these are important issues this election year.

Poll finds strong support in Pima County for increased pre-kindergarten funding

Arizona Daily Star| April 22, 2018

We don’t spend enough locally on pre-kindergarten education, according to a recent community poll of Pima County residents, who indicated a willingness to pay for early childhood education programs with a “sin tax” on tobacco or alcohol.

The poll, which tallied 1,420 respondents, is part of a partnership between the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson’s Strongpoint Opinion Research.

Tucson residents answered in slightly higher numbers to questions about approving increased funding for preschool education; 74 percent of city respondents said they would vote to increase funds, while 68 percent of respondents who live in Pima County, but outside of the city limits, agreed.

Ninety-five percent of all people who answered the poll said that funding should go to public schools first, before private or parochial schools, or homeschooling.

Star Opinion: Poll shows pre-k is a Pima County priority

Arizona Daily Star| April 22, 2018

Early childhood education doesn’t receive the local financial support it should, according to roughly 75 percent of those who responded in a recent community poll, and most who answered said they would support a tax to pay for pre-kindergarten learning.

The poll, which tallied 1,420 respondents, is part of a partnership between the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson’s Strongpoint Opinion Research...

Getting to 'yes' on early childhood education

Arizona Daily Star April 8, 2018|Sarah Garrecht Gassen

Five months ago, voters said “no” to Proposition 204, an initiative that would have increased the city sales tax to make sure every 3- and 4-year-old in Tucson could attend a high-quality early childhood education program.

Many who didn’t support Prop. 204, known as Strong Start Tucson, said they agreed with the goal and the necessity of early childhood education, but they didn’t like the plan. The Star’s Editorial Board was in that camp.

After the election, we issued a challenge to all those “I support the goal, but …” voters and organizations:

“We must get to work. We must find a way to expand early childhood education opportunities so all families who want to send their young kids to a high-quality preschool can afford to do so.”

I have some good news:

The seeds of “yes” are planted...

Star Opinion: With Prop. 204 defeated, let’s join for new effort

Arizona Daily Star Nov 13, 2017

This is a challenge to every Tucson voter who looked at Proposition 204 and said, “While I support Strong Start Tucson’s goal of providing affordable high-quality early childhood education to thousands of kids, I can’t vote ‘yes’ because of how the proposition was written:

We must get to work. We must find a way to expand early childhood education opportunities so all families who want to send their young kids to a high-quality preschool can afford to do so.

Strong Start Tucson, the group that wrote and campaigned for Prop. 204, nailed the need — early childhood is crucial in brain development and education. Investing in a child’s early life pays off for years to come...

Guest opinion

Jones: Community crisis of access & affordability

Posted Oct 30, 2017, 2:12 pm Amber JonesSpecial to

We are at a pivotal moment right now in the fight for equity for our youngest learners -- a real opportunity to invest in our most crucial resource, our children.

I have dedicated much of my adult life to advocating on behalf of young children and their families. My journey began in the classroom as a preschool teacher, then director of an accredited child care center and preschool. I have served on the board for both the state Association for the Education of Young Children and the local affiliate, the Southern Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children. I serve on a First Things First Regional Partnership Council and am an adjunct faculty member teaching early childhood coursework to teachers.

Most important of all, I am the mother of two wonderful young children...

Will it be Progress or Treason? The Morning after Prop. 204

Think of the Children
Prop 202, 203, and 204: Vote Yes

Isn't it time we took bette care of Tucson's preschoolers?

Prop 204, aka Strong Start Tucson, seeks to do just that by raising the sales tax by a half-cent per dollar to fund scholarships for 3- and 4-year-old kids.

Another tax increase, coming on the heels of Tucson voters agreeing to a five-year temporary tax to fix more of Tucson's streets, is not an easy thing to swallow. And when critics complain that the local sales tax is climbing too high, we can see their point.

Nonetheless, we believe the investment in young minds is worth it. The cost of high-quality preschool— $800 a month or more!—is beyond the reach of way too many families in this town, especially those who need it the most. The Republicans in the Arizona Legislature—despite professing to love all children—aren't doing so hot with helping those who have actually left the womb. Besides the ongoing war on public education, GOP lawmakers have totally fallen down on the obligation to help families with young kids, cutting daycare subsidies from $82 million a year to nothing seven years ago and only restoring a fraction of that since. It's no surprise that child-neglect cases skyrocketed in the wake of those cuts, among other cutbacks to social services meant to support families on the edge in our state. Essentially, the cuts have just shuffled costs to different agencies while ensuring a great deal of misery for children.

Thousands of kids across the state are just names on a waiting list...

Prop. 204: Planting Preschools in Daycare Deserts

POSTED BY  ON TUE, OCT 24, 2017 AT 8:44 AM

The term “food desert” was created in the 1990s to describe areas where residents don’t have access to healthy, affordable food. With no adequate markets within a reasonable distance, people living in food deserts are more likely to live on fast food and what they can buy in local mini-marts, most of which is unhealthy and overpriced, rather than what you find at most supermarkets. The general health and wellbeing of people living in food deserts would be improved significantly if the residents had access to healthy food they can afford.

It’s time to coin a new term: daycare desert. It describes places where parents have little access to any kind of affordable daycare, let alone high quality early childhood education, for their children. Daycare deserts are deeper and wider in the U.S. than elsewhere in the industrialized world, and Arizona is one of the most parched states in the country. To improve the educational health and wellbeing of children and adults living in daycare deserts, we need to bring affordable, high quality early childhood education within easy access...

Penelope Jacks: Why you should vote for Prop. 204 Strong Start Tucson

By Penelope Jacks Special to the Arizona Daily Star, October 18th, 2017

They never mention children or children’s futures. Perhaps they don’t care about kids, or perhaps because they know Tucson’s voters do care. Out-of-state billionaires, the Koch brothers, are using their Americans for Prosperity PAC, along with local big businesses, to inundate Tucson with misleading, scaremongering mailers, phone calls and commercials opposing Proposition 204 Strong Start Tucson.

The obvious: Virtually all education experts and child advocates agree about the value of high-quality preschool for children, families and the economic strength of a community. Prop. 204 will, very simply, provide scholarships to high-quality preschool to between 6,500 and 8,000 children ages 3 and 4.

The criticisms of Prop. 204 are easily addressed and are, when examined, advantages...

Strong Start Tucson: Striking a blow against poverty

By BISHOP GERALD KICANAS Catholic Outlook, October 2017

Pope Francis has called poverty a scandal, and, indeed, it is - especially when its victims are the most vulnerable among us. Twenty percent of American children live in poverty. It will not be easy to change this fact, but, here in Tucson, we have an opportunity to begin to drive down this scandalous statistic by supporting Strong Start Tucson, a citizens’ ballot initiative that aims to ensure that every child in our community has the opportunity to attend a high-quality preschool.

Why is this important? As child development researchers have produced more - and more detailed - observations about how children learn and grow, the importance of early childhood education has become increasingly apparent. The pre-kindergarten years are not simply an extended playtime. They are a critical period during which the child’s specific experiences influence emotional growth and cognitive development, which, in turn, affect the child’s social adjustment and ability to learn.

Valuable for any child, early childhood education is especially important for children living in poverty. Much as they love their children and want what’s best for them, parents who must struggle to put food on the table also struggle to provide the rich, stimulating environment needed to promote early learning and school readiness. Indeed, Too Small to Fail, an organization that promotes the language development that is so important to success in elementary school, has reported that children in low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words by age four than their more affluent peers - a shocking difference.

Strong Start Tucson aims to reduce this gap by providing a dedicated funding source, generated by a half-cent sales tax, that would enable 6,000-8,000 three- and four year-olds to attend high-quality preschools. As a Christian, I would advocate supporting this project as a manifestation of Jesus’ injunction that we love our neighbors and care for the poor, but one need not be divinely inspired to see the value of helping disadvantaged children get a good start in life.

Studies have shown that the benefits of early childhood education outweigh the costs many times over. For instance, cost-benefit analyses conducted by researchers at the RAND Corp. have demonstrated that the returns to society for each dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education range from $1.80 to $17.07, depending on the specific characteristics of the program. Children who participate in such programs perform better in school, are healthier, are less likely to become involved in the justice system and earn more as adults.

Cities and states across the country are implementing these programs, and doing so here will strengthen our community in many ways. I urge all Tucsonans to support the Strong Start Tucson ballot initiative Nov. 7. It is right and wise to do so.

In Tucson, Proposition 204 started a range war — between business and taxpayers

Jimmy Zuma…blogged for Salon, wrote politics for Technorati and Tucson Sentinel and was DC Correspondent for the John C Scott Show. Now retired, he just can’t stop. Oct 13, 2017

Prop. 204 is about kids and pre-school. In a state well known for starving schools to fund business, taxpayers are demanding a people-first approach, starting with their children. The business community isn’t happy…

Rugrat Referendum 

Strong Start Tucson aims to provide early childhood education to 8,000 preschoolers a year. Why are local Democrats so opposed to it? 

Coyote classroom is full of sensory wonders. Two little girls paint on an easel while children's classical music plays quietly. A curly-haired 3-year-old runs up to Bill Berk, the director of Outer Limits School, and hugs him around the legs.

"Thanks for the the hug," he says, patting her on the head. She leans against his legs and studies paintings hanging on a clothesline.

A trough full of dry beans labeled "sensory station" is equipped with plenty of tools for legume exploration. Kids move from little tables and chairs to tiny soft couches to chalk boaards and bins full of art supplies. There's even a moon-dust station.

Outside, three hens strut about in a chicken coop next to a vegetable garden. Children run around the playground, weaving their way through tunnels and slides.

High-quality preschools benefit families and communities in numerous ways. But out of almost 14,000 3- and 4-year-olds in Tucson, only 2,500 attend high quality preschool, according to data compiled by Strong Start with the help of the University of Arizona School of Geography and Development using Census Bureau data, and data from First Things First and United Way.

Prop 204—aka Strong Start Tucson—aims to make quality preschools more accessible for families of all income levels, through a half-cent-per-dollar sales tax that voters can establish on Nov. 7....


Stephanie Carl: Prop 204 means child care help for families

By Stephanie Carl Special to the Arizona Daily Star, SEP 22, 2017

I believe in the American dream and in education as the route to success. I believe in hard work, charting a path and making it happen. I served in the U.S. Navy, went to college and became a teacher. The day my first child was born, motherhood became my most important job.

Unfortunately, I abruptly became a single mother. Having stayed home with two young children, I hadn’t been in the workforce for a few years. To secure a stable future for my kids, I needed to return to work. I began searching for child care for my children, who were under age 5...

Preschool Enrollment: U.S. (and Arizona) vs. the World

POSTED BY  ON WED, SEP 13, 2017 AT 9:08 AM

Concern and complaints abound over U.S. students' low scores on international tests compared to other industrialized countries. The favorite culprits accused of causing the disparity are, in no special order: (1) Failing schools; (2) Failing teachers; (3) Failing parents (4) Low expectations; (5) Lack of common curriculum; (6) Too much common curriculum; (7) Inadequate funding; (8) Socioeconomic inequality. I'm sure I missed a few.

But one possible culprit that doesn't come up as often as it should is lack of opportunities for quality early childhood education. The U.S. sits near the bottom of the list when it comes to the percentage of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in educational programs. Is that one reason for our low scores on the international tests? Maybe so, maybe no, but it should be a larger part of our national discussion, even among the privatization/"education reform" crowd, who are all about charter schools and vouchers for private schools. If they care more about education than privatization, maybe those folks should be more into promoting early childhood education...

How Julián Castro Bet on 4-Year-Olds to Transform San Antonio

The former mayor created an elite pre-K program to make his city’s economy stronger.
By ERICK TRICKEY Politico Magazine August 17, 2017

Jennifer Martinez Young’s 8-year-old daughter, Addison, blitzes through books: Lisa Yee’s DC Super Hero Girls novels, the Rainbow Fairies and Mariella Mystery series. Just starting third grade, she’s reading at almost a sixth-grade level. This year, at Addison’s former elementary school, fifth-graders will read a story she wrote last year, as a model.

Addison’s mother credits her pre-school, San Antonio’s Pre-K 4 SA North Education Center, for inspiring her love of reading. Addison is still pen pals with Mrs. Ashworth, her preschool teacher. “She says she taught her so much,” Martinez Young, 37, says...

Is the Strong Start Tucson Initiative a Good Idea?

By David Safier Tucson Weekly August 04, 2017

Tucsonans will be voting on an initiative, Strong Start Tucson, which, if it passes, will provide money to make preschool more available and affordable for the city's children. It will be funded by a half cent sales tax. That sounds like a wonderful idea to me, but some people have voiced strong objections to the details of the initiative, including people I generally agree with. So which side should I be on? Is the upside of the initiative greater than the downside, or is it the other way around?...

AAP: All Kids Need Access to Quality Early Education (Pediatrics

by MedPage Today Staff July 31, 2017

Given their role in helping to improve cognitive and physical outcomes, pediatricians should work to promote high-quality early education for all children, said the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a policy statement published in Pediatrics, the authors stressed that quality early childhood education also enhances children's readiness for school. They acknowledged that certain barriers exist for children receiving this type of quality education, such as inadequate funding and staff education. To that end, they emphasized the importance of "multidisciplinary, evidence-based child care practice standards," such as quality rating and improvement systems at the state and federal levels.
Pediatricians are encouraged to make use of AAP resources to educate their patients and themselves about early childhood education, the authors said, and they should also help collaborate with families and early childhood educators, which is particularly critical in helping children with special needs.

Strong Start Tucson: Is one penny on a $2 ice cream cone too much?

Guest Opinion, Penelope Jacks, Tucson Sentinel Jul 27, 2017

Before I went to law school and became a policy advocate for children I was a kindergarten teacher. It was clear from the first day of school—and every day after—which children had been to high quality preschool and which had not. The kids who had had the good fortune to attend a good preschool demonstrated cognitive skills and character skills such as attentiveness, impulse control, persistence and teamwork. They were ready to learn. And no surprise: research tells us that 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5...

25,000 signatures gathered to get preschool scholarships on the November ballot

By Angela Pittenger Arizona Daily Star July 6, 2017

Small children hauled four red wagons full of signed petitions into the City of Tucson Election Services office Thursday morning.

The 25,000 signatures were gathered during the past several months by volunteers and parents for Strong Start Tucson, an organization campaigning to create preschool scholarships through a half-cent city sales tax increase...

Strong Start Tucson fills kids’ red wagons with signatures to place preschool education scholarships on City of Tucson November ballot

TUCSON, Ariz. July 6, 2017

Strong Start Tucson turned in more than 25,000 signatures to the City of Tucson Election Services office today. The signatures arrived in style, filling four red Radio Flyer wagons and accompanied by kids, parents and volunteers supporting the campaign to create preschool education scholarships in the City of Tucson. The ballot initiative will be part of the city-wide general election vote set for Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

“We want Tucson to join other visionary cities, counties and states who invest in high-quality preschool as one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce poverty, improve the economic climate of their communities and create a path for each child to be successful,” said Penelope Jacks, chair of the Strong Start Campaign Committee.

Jamie Ratner said he is a living example of what early childhood education offers, giving him a lifelong love of learning and the tools to complete college, a master’s degree and law school.

“Everyone deserves that start. I was lucky, my mom was the director of a preschool, and my education and curiosity to want to know more began at the age of three,” said Ratner, Strong Start Tucson treasurer and a professor at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law. “It’s served me well and I want others to have this opportunity to reach their full potential.” ...

Victoria Steele: Tucson's children deserve a high-quality early education

By Victoria Steele Special to the Arizona Daily Star  Jun 23, 2017 

We have a wonderful opportunity to show who we are as a community — a chance to demonstrate that we truly care about giving our children a strong start for their future.

Everyone knows that a high-quality early childhood education is the most important factor in giving children the power to be successful.

Children who go to high-quality preschool perform better in school, complete more years of education and become productive members of a more educated workforce. There are 14,000 3- and 4-year-olds in Tucson. Currently, only 16 percent of them attend high-quality early education...

Arizona ranks 46th in US in child education, health and family

By Devin Conley Cronkite News  Jun 17, 2017

PHOENIX — Arizona ranks among the five worst states for children’s well-being in education, health, economics and family and community matters, according to the Kids Count annual report.

Arizona was ranked 46th in the country, the Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation says.

Nearly 400,000 Arizona children live in “high-poverty” areas. And six out of ten of Arizona’s three- to four-year-olds are not in preschool, with a child psychologist saying that means their learning is delayed.

Letter: High Quality Preschool


Bill Berk, June 5, 2017
AZ Daily Star Letter to Editor

Congratulations to our local ECE community for ensuring more children attended high quality preschool this year than in years past... 

We will have an even stronger community when we increase enrollment in high quality preschool by 50 percentage points, not just 4...

Pre-K: Decades Worth Of Studies, One Strong Message

KNAU Arizona Public Radio

Some of the nation's top researchers who've spent their careers studying early childhood education recently got together in Washington with one goal ...

Why affordable child care is good for all of us

ANGELA NELSON, Mother Nature Network
May 2, 2017

A new long-term study finds that high-quality child care can help poor mothers and their children lead more successful lives.

Tempe could spend $3 million annually on free preschool for children living in poverty

, The Republic | azcentral.comPublished 9:54 a.m. MT March 28, 2017 | Updated 7:41 a.m. MT March 29, 2017
The Tempe City Council will vote this spring to spend $3 million annually to provide free preschool to 3- and 4-year-old children living in poverty...

A Path Out Of Poverty: Career Training + Quality Pre K

People Laughed When Bill De Blasio First Proposed Free Pre-K. Now He's Expanding It.

Huffington Post Article April 26, 2017

When Bill de Blasio ran for New York City mayor in 2013, his plan to enact a universal preschool program for 4-year-olds was treated more like a lofty...

New York City Will Offer Free Preschool for All 3-Year-Olds

NY Times Article April, 24 2017

The plan would expand Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature prekindergarten program slowly, starting in two districts, in the Bronx and Brooklyn, next year.


Tucson, AZ January 2017 - The Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona releases report. What Arizona Leaders Need to Know.


Strong Start Tucson Announces Broad List of Early Supporters

Tucson, AZ, December 16, 2016– The Strong Start Tucson Citizen’s Ballot Initiative Campaign has picked up early support.  Momentum has already begun to build only one month after the official kickoff event.

“The YWCA of Tucson and Southern Arizona proudly endorses this local effort to provide access to high-quality preschool for Tucson’s families as a means to empowering women who are reentering the workforce, particularly small business entrepreneurs.  High-quality preschool is more expensive than sending your child to college and many families simply cannot afford it. Strong Start Tucson is one more way we can help level the playing field for women in business,” said YWCA CEO, Kelly Fryer.

Local Leaders Launch Campaign to Improve the Lives of Children in our Community.

Tucson, AZ, November 15, 2016– The Strong Start Tucson campaign kickoff event will be held this Thursday November 17th, 5:30-7:00 PM at Make Way for Books, 700 N Stone Ave. The event is open to the public. 

Letter to the Editor

I adopted my grandchildren when they were very young. While researching preschools, I was disheartened to learn that high quality child care had become unaffordable for many families with preschool-age children....

Bonnie Stevens | AZ Daily Star November 7, 2016

$50 million for scholarships

Half-cent sales tax sought to improve access to Tucson preschools

...“We’re confident the support is there and past votes by Tucsonans show they’re willing to spend for education and to give every child an opportunity,” she said. “Many have asked us why we are not doing this as a statewide initiative, and it’s because we know Tucson voters are more committed to children than the rest of the state has shown itself to be.”...

By  October 31, 2016


Preschool is $$$$$$$. This proposed sales-tax increase could help Tucson families

 Alexis Huicochea, Oct 19, 2016

A group of early childhood education advocates are looking to make high-quality preschool programs accessible and affordable for Tucson families...

Showing 3 reactions

  • @StrongTucson tweeted this page. 2018-09-27 10:44:53 -0700
  • Morgan Kyrklund
    commented 2016-12-14 13:31:50 -0700
    Hi there! My name is Morgan Kyrklund. I’m a reporter at Tucson News Now. Would like to chat with someone about a story working on. 520-405-4762 or

  • Kelly Griffith
    commented 2016-10-21 08:05:24 -0700
    Great Article! Thank you Alexis Huicochea.