As I travel across the country to talk with school and community leaders about the importance of community schools, part of the conversation is always about whether children are ready to learn when they enter school. People want to know how schools are working with early childhood programs to achieve that goal and how we can do better. And while concern about the development of young children has led to some progress, the sad truth is that too many of our nation's most vulnerable children - the ones who need early childhood experiences the most - do not have access.
The research on the value of early learning is indisputable. But equally important is what the common sense of parents tells us how much they value these opportunities. As Tim Noah commented recently, "I've never met an affluent 4 year old who is not enrolled in preschool, but nationwide about 1/3 of kids that age aren't." Quality early learning is an equity issue; all children deserve the opportunity.
The early childhood proposal that is on the table should command the attention of every individual and organizations committed to our children. Organizations must band together across sectors and interests to advocate for the early learning plan. Whether your primary focus is housing and community development, health and social services, youth development, civil rights, higher education, violence prevention, the environment, or community schools for that matter, everyone knows that early learning matters to their own institutional goals. Everyone must get on board with the early childhood and education communities to move this agenda. The voice of all these powerful constituencies working together will make a difference.