Lewis W. Diuguid

Community’s pre-K needs fit No. 1 question: ‘Is it good for the children?’

Updated: 2013-09-07T21:50:58Z

By Lewis W. Diuguid

The Kansas City Star

What seems like ages ago, an influential group in Kansas City asked what it called this community’s No. 1 question: “Is it good for the children?”

The answer certainly is “yes” when it comes to Kansas City providing high-quality pre-kindergarten teachers and classrooms for the community’s 6,000, 3- and 4-year-olds. It is the only way to elevate those children to be kindergarten- and elementary-school ready to learn.

A universal pre-kindergarten program is the only way to close the achievement gaps that exist between minority and white students and low-income urban kids and their suburban counterparts. A good preschool boosts children’s language, math and reading skills and helps them eagerly want to be lifelong learners.

The problem is that a good early childhood education program for area children won’t be cheap. The Kansas City Public Schools’ Early Childhood Education Commission determined that it would cost $38 million a year, The Kansas City Star reports

That would be money well spent, and it would be good for the children — as the Partnership for Children got this community years ago to start thinking. The only problem is how to fund the pre-K, good-for-the-children program.

And isn’t it curious that Jackson County voters will be asked on Nov. 5 to approve a half-cent sales tax for 20 years that annually would pour about the same amount of money — $40 million — into medical research for unspecified, can’t-be-promised cures for yet-to-be-picked ailments? Children’s Mercy Hospital would be among the recipients of the money, but people going to the polls need to keep asking themselves now “is this tax increase good for the children” or would it be better to wait for a half-cent sales tax proposal to fund early childhood education?

Like a family managing its finances and worrying over the debt it takes on, voters must be just as discerning and always ask, “Is it good for the children?”

To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, call 816-234-4723 or send email to ldiuguid@kcstar.com.

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