Wednesday, July 11, 2007

For Military Families with Pre-K Aged Kids

I came across this and thought it would be something some folks might to keep an eye on. Good luck. :)

Report: All military kids need pre-K programs

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jul 11, 2007 17:28:47 EDT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All states should make all military children eligible for state-funded pre-kindergarten programs, according to two advocacy organizations for pre-K education and for military children.

Eligibility requirements vary among the 39 states that have state-funded pre-K programs. As states expand their programs, some base eligibility on income. But regardless of eligibility requirements, military families should have access, said Libby Doggett, executive director of Pre-K Now, a public education and advocacy organization based in Washington.

Many military families are middle-income, she said, and “middle-income families are very much left behind in this country.”

Pre-K Now and the Military Child Education Coalition issued a joint report July 11 at the coalition’s annual conference here, titled “Pre-K for Military Families: Honoring Service, Educating Children.”

Doggett said research has shown that all 3- and 4-year-olds benefit from high-quality pre-kindergarten education.

Several states, including Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma, provide pre-K education for all 4-year-olds. The Texas legislature passed a law in 2006 making military children eligible for the state’s pre-K program. That includes children of National Guard and Reserve members who have been activated, said Mary Keller, executive director of the Military Child Education Coalition. Their children would remain eligible when the service member returns from deployment.

The Kansas legislature in 2006 approved a test program that includes serving military children in six counties, including Geary County, near Fort Riley.

A pre-K education could give military children a foundation to help them adapt later in the educational process, Doggett said.

“Military families have more stress. They may move from a state with lower education standards to a state with high standards. If the child has a strong start, they have more chance of catching up,” she said. “This is learning that lasts a lifetime.”

Pre-K education can be expensive for parents in the private sector, but it varies from one location to another. A family in Texas, for example, could pay more than $8,000 a year for pre-K.

In 2006, Texas was home to 5,395 3- and 4-year-old military children, half of whom did not meet the previous requirements for the state pre-K program. If all eligible military children had participated in the program, it would have cost the state about $7 million, Keller said.

She estimated about 500,000 military children worldwide might be in the pre-K age range, although it is difficult to pinpoint how many military children would be eligible for pre-K because of the fluid nature of the population and the number of Guard and Reserve families with children that age.

She said states can work with military child development centers so that children can go to pre-K for half a day, then roll over to the child development center staff.

Doggett said the pre-K programs are growing not only in schools, but in conjunction with child care centers.

“The military child care program is the premiere child care program in this country, but it’s is still not pre-K and is not tied to pre-K standards,” she said. “There are also a number of military families who don’t have access to military child care.”

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