FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2017
Senator Begich Introduces Bill to Expand Access to Early Education
Alaska Early Education Program Bill Would Expand Program to Make Sure More Alaskans Have the Opportunity to Benefit from Pre-K for Their Kids.
JUNEAU — Today Senator Tom Begich (D-Anchorage) proposed SB99, a bill addressing the lack of access to high-quality preschool education of children across the state. Research from biologists, psychologists, and economists shows that providing access to high-quality early education programs is an investment in our future. Universal early education, when available to students before they enter Kindergarten, improves school readiness, reading levels, and long-term economic performance. Long-term studies such as the Perry Preschool project also suggest students with access to high quality preschool are less likely to be incarcerated and less likely to receive government assistance as adults.
Alaska’s current pre-Kindergarten programs – such as those in Anchorage, Mat-Su, the Lower Kuskokwim School District, and Nome – and our early education programs including Head Start, Best Beginnings, and Parents as Teachers, provide access to families for such high-quality early education, but are, according to our Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), only available to 10% of Alaska’s four-year olds. SB99 would take lessons learned from those programs and provide all school districts with the opportunity to develop high-quality early education for their students beginning with the lowest performing.
The markers for success develop early in life, and brain science underscores that how we use our brains at those crucial early years before we enter Kindergarten – as well as how prepared we are when we enter our K – 12 education, have a dramatic impact on how well we will do in school and life. In particular, research shows us that those who live in poverty have an incredibly difficult time catching up with others if they come to school ill-prepared. That same research shows that those who have a high-quality preschool experience go on to future academic and personal success. Studies reported in national media as recently as February 2017 have identified that every dollar invested in high-quality Pre-K can save up to $7 in long-term government expense by reducing the need for remedial education, and involvement in the criminal justice and public assistance systems.
“Smart investments in our oil and gas royalties and the PFD have made our state one of the most economically equitable in the country,” said Begich. “It’s time to make similar smart investments in our kids with an eye toward raising the next generation of Alaskans ready to make a positive impact on the state.”
Added Begich, “Early education is imperative for our state. When examining Alaska’s long-term economy, it is essential to consider how we can both increase Alaskans’ productivity, as well as reduce potential drains resulting from the unrealized potential of our citizens. Early education is part of that equation.”
For more information, contact Sydney Kaufman in Sen. Tom Begich’s office at 465-3704 or at Sydney.Kaufman@akleg.gov.