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45% of NY Kids 8 and Younger: Need Lots More Early Education

November 4, 2013

NEW YORK CITY - Education barriers are especially tough for 17 million kids from low-income families nationwide, and new Annie E. Casey Foundation research has found that includes 45 percent of New York children age 8 and younger. The report finds a majority of students are not on track by the third grade.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy with the Casey Foundation, said the nation needs to invest more in early education, especially for low-income kids who are even less likely to be on track. That includes nearly one out of every two kids in New York up to age 8, she added.

"We think it's really important that we look at the early childhood years as being from birth until 8 years old. There's a few critical things that happen, one of which is that children learn to read," Speer said.

The report said investing in the first years of a child's life pays off big dividends in later years. It noted that New York is doing better than many states, with more than 40 percent of kids age 3 and under attending a quality preschool.

New York City recently adopted a paid sick-day law that is still in the process of taking effect. Speer said this is the kind of policy that can make a major difference in helping get kids on track in school and in helping them succeed in later life.

"Having the flexible work schedule - it's so important. Also things like providing paid sick leave for parents could make a huge, huge difference," Speer said.

"The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for a Lifetime of Success" calls for supporting parents so they can care and provide for their children. Other policy recommendations include increased access to early childhood education for low-income children and development of programs that support a child's transition to elementary school.

The report is available from the Casey Foundation at www.AECF.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY