By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
When it comes to education, preschool isn’t a requirement. That being said, a lot of parents and guardians choose to enroll their children in preschool to help them begin developing the skills they’ll need when they begin kindergarten.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that early childhood education helps improve the cognitive and social development of young children. It has been seen as beneficial to children from low-income families as early childhood education can help prevent or minimize the gaps in school readiness.
Earlier this week, Gov. Tony Evers announced that Wisconsin was awarded $10 million through the Preschool Development Birth to Five Grant (PDG B-5). The money will help strengthen Wisconsin’s early childhood system and address the following challenges: equity, access, quality and affordability.
“The first years of a kid’s life set the tone for their future success,” said Gov. Evers. “Right now, many families struggle to find affordable and reliable care for their kids before they reach school age.”
Evers continued, “This grant provides us with an opportunity to clear some of those hurdles, and to connect the dots for our kids and their families.”
According to the press release, the PDG B-5 grant will go towards research. Wisconsin will collect information to better understand the needs of the early care and early education systems and from there a state plan will be created.
The grant activities will be decided by the Leadership Council on Early years (LCEY), which will be comprised of state agency leaders. The governor along with First Lady Kathy Evers, State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor and the Department of Children and Families will also have a say.
So far, the LCEY plans to look at ways to improve recruitment, retention and support. Another struggle the early childhood education world faces is finding qualified employees and retaining them. The press release likewise noted that the grant will also focus on bridging the gap between early childhood and school-aged programming and children living in underserved communities.
Secretary-designee Emilie Amundson said the grant will allow the committee to rethink how Wisconsin values early childhood education.
“What we hear from people across the state is that access to high-quality early care and education experiences drive a whole host of other positive outcomes for communities,” Amundson said. “This is our chance to build a bigger table and help everyone understand the value early care and education provides Wisconsin.”
Stanford Taylor said that a strong education foundation is essential to young learners when it comes to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps. Funding will help Wisconsin design a system that works best for the state.