Early Education: The Not-So-Secret Key to a Healthier Nevada
To put it gently, when it comes to early education Nevada has some room for improvement. Only 32% of Nevada’s 3 and 4 year olds attend any kind of early ed schooling, a statistic which includes public, private, religious, and charter schools. Unsurprisingly, this percentage ranks us as the lowest in the country. According to CCSD officials, Clark County, where 3/4 of the state’s school children reside, has some 23K-25K children entering kindergarten every year, with only about a third of these students being serviced by some kind of preschool, a figure which is in line with the state as a whole. How does this translate to upstream outcomes? Some 13K students in CCSD are considered to be at risk, per grade. Furthermore, only 22% of Nevada residents ages 25+ have a BA or higher. In total, this translates to decreased economic opportunity and outcomes for both individuals and Nevada as a whole.
As we’ve chronicled in the past, Nevada would achieve sizable financial savings if we invest in high quality, targeted pre-k programs. But there is also another factor that should spur investment in early education: public health. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest philanthropic institution in the country that is devoted solely to health issues, recently put out a report titled Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities. The report includes some major prescriptions and calls for the prioritization of early education, even in the face of economic austerity:
• Create stronger quality standards for early childhood development programs, link funding to program quality, and guarantee access by funding enrollment for all low-income children under age 5 in programs meeting these standards by 2025.
• Help parents who struggle to provide healthy, nurturing experiences for their children.
• Invest in research and innovation. Evaluation research will ensure that all early childhood programs are based on the best available evidence. Innovation will catalyze the design and testing of new intervention strategies to achieve substantially greater impacts than current best practices.
In all honesty, it comes down to a simple understanding that even those farthest removed from education can comprehend: every child deserves a strong start, and we have the means to provide it for them. The full report is really worth a read and has some great data illustrations. It can be found here. For more information on Nevada’s early childhood education system and ways you can get involved, Strong Start Nevada of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance is a fantastic place to begin.