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Report: First 8 Years Are Critical To Children's Success

PHOTO: A new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation makes the case for investing in a child’s early years to increase chances for a successful life. CREDIT: Microsoft images
November 4. 2013
PHOTO: A new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation makes the case for investing in a child’s early years to increase chances for a successful life. CREDIT: Microsoft images

PHOENIX - Nearly two-thirds of America's children are having a tough time achieving necessary skills by the time they are in third grade. And a new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation concludes it's twice as hard for kids from low-income and minority families.

If a child doesn't possess age-appropriate skills by age eight, Children's Action Alliance president Dana Naimark said, chances for a successful life decrease sharply.

"That certainly means for those particular students a far greater chance of school failure and of really struggling with their own incomes and their own careers all throughout their lives."

Naimark is part of "Build Arizona," a coalition of business and nonprofit leaders calling for expanded access to high-quality preschools, increased home visits and greater involvement by schools, including a longer school day and school year, summer programs and all-day kindergarten.

Naimark and her "Build Arizona" partners say high-quality, voluntary preschools and all-day kindergarten are essential to having children entering school with the skills to meet the state's increasingly-rigorous educational standards.

"Our preschool participation is one of the worst in the nation, and again, we can change that," Naimark said. "We know we can move the needle. It takes partnerships. It takes leadership and commitment. And it definitely takes some investment."

Although the state legislature increased K-12 education funding by $82 million this year, it's still some $300 million a year below levels at the start of the Great Recession.

According to Naimark, the cuts have meant larger class sizes and lost opportunities for pupils' enrichment and tutoring.

"In addition to that, we had major budget cuts in the early childhood arena as well during the recession. So we wiped out funding for preschool, and we've had a freeze on child-care assistance for low-income working families for several years now."

The Casey Foundation report also calls for education and training for low-income parents so they can get better jobs, access to comprehensive, affordable health care that can catch disabilities and development problems in young children, and creation of data systems to track child development.

The report is at AECF.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ