The SEED Lab Addresses Mayor’s Proposal to Expand PreK

The SEED Lab aims to advance local policy and practice to best serve local children. Recently, we had an opportunity to support our Mayor’s efforts to increase the city’s investment in prekindergarten. Specifically, at a City Council Meeting on November 14, 2016, lab member and Pitt doctoral student Ashley Shafer offered the following public comment about the importance of expanding public prekindergarten in Pittsburgh.

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Hello, my name is Ashley Shafer I am a resident of Point Breeze, an applied developmental psychologist, and a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. I work in a research lab in the School of Education with faculty who are trying to figure out how to improve the quality of pre-k in Pittsburgh so that it offers maximum benefits to all children. In our research we have moved past wondering whether high-quality pre-k is good for all children. Research states, …unequivocally…that it is. What we try to figure out in our lab is how we can make this good experience, a great experience for each and every child who walks through the classroom door. This is one major way we can lay the foundation for children’s lifelong academic, social, and economic success.

I want to thank Mayor Peduto and the Council for focusing on extending pre-K in the City of Pittsburgh. For we know that the relationships and experiences children have in their early years lay the foundation for future success in school. This is a crucial time for young children, particularly those most at risk. We are responsible for diminishing the opportunity gap before it starts, and this can alleviate the need for costly interventions later. By extending public pre-K, we are helping to support the families in our community that do not have the means to send their children to privet programs. All children, regardless of their parent’s income deserve high quality education and care too. Did you know that private pre-Ks in Pittsburgh can cost up to $15,000 per year? For many, this cost far exceeds family budgets, especially considering that most pre-K programs do not cover the entire workday, and need to be supplemented with extra care for children whose parents work full-time. Likewise, the range in quality of pre-k programs is vast, but the public pre-K that Pittsburgh currently offers is really raising the bar to make sure that all children receive academically stimulating and rich social experiences that make them ready to learn when they arrive in elementary school.

Research tells us that children who attend high quality pre-k are more prepared for the transition to kindergarten. They are exposed to various learning opportunities, relationship building with peers and adults, and taught how to preserver and master new and challenging skills. Studies have found that children who attended pre-k programs earn more money, are less likely to participate or be convicted of criminal activity, and that every $1invested in pre-k programs repays the general public $13.

Giving all children in the City of Pittsburgh access to high-quality pre-K care and education will improve not only these children’s educational and life outcomes, but as a City will progress us forward. For we know, the children are our future and expanding the access to high-quality pre-K in the City of Pittsburgh will result in an improved future for all of us.

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