Equality when all get quality start

Kudos to Deborah Parker, featured in the Thursday article, “If there’s a need, she’s likely to be there to help.” As a regular Head Start volunteer, I just want to say: Thank you! I know how important programs like Early Head Start, Head Start and ECEAP are to children and their families. They make an incredible difference and the benefits are far-reaching.

Many parents are unable to volunteer in the classroom because they cannot afford to take time off from work. Early Head Start and Head Start are both federally funded. In order to receive money, these programs must match every $5 they get with $1 of “in-kind” contributions. Volunteer hours are one very important way to help meet this requirement.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of low-income families served by these early learning programs are hard-working and dedicated parents. They want what every parent wants, to see their children succeed. A quality preschool provides an opportunity for lifelong success. Children who participate in these programs enter kindergarten ready to learn, are more likely to graduate from high school and are less likely to run into trouble with the law. Unfortunately, unless you qualify for Head Start or ECEAP or can afford an expensive private preschool, an opportunity like this is out of reach.

All children should have access to a quality education regardless of income. Currently, the Legislature is considering a bill that could make an incredible impact on our children. HB 2448, The High Quality Early Learning Act of 2012, is crucial to our education system and future economy. It establishes a voluntary pre-kindergarten program open to all children based on a sliding scale fee. Ultimately, parents will be able to choose a preschool based on their needs rather than their pocketbooks. The success or failure of our economy lies in the hands of our children. Let’s give them the tools they need to build a better future.

Nicole Erickson