Indianapolis Public Schools recognizes the critical importance of preschool education for our students, and we endorse efforts at all levels to increase funding, access and awareness of this initiative for our families and community.
We serve a diverse, culturally rich community, and we understand the value of high-quality, early childhood education and intervention for our children. We know that investing in students and their families at an early age has a stronger likelihood of success than interventions that happen when students are older.
Within our IPS community, we also serve a significant number of students whose families often face additional challenges. We cannot let them fall behind because of adverse socioeconomic circumstances. In the United States, disparities in access to high-quality preschool are most evident among children of color. When children from low-income families do attend preschools, they are more likely to attend low-quality primary and secondary programs.
This is unacceptable. Working together, we can change this paradigm by making a significant and sustained investment in early childhood education that crosses political, economic, geographic, linguistic and demographic boundaries.
Studies by UNICEF and the American Public Health Association (among many others) show that failure to provide quality early childhood education limits children’s futures by denying them opportunities to reach their full potential. It also limits the futures of countries, robbing them of the human capital needed to reduce inequalities and promote peaceful, prosperous societies.
A child’s brain develops rapidly from birth to age 5. A student who attends a quality preschool program, therefore, has greater opportunities to reach developmental milestones ahead of peers who do not have access to the same opportunities.
The development of children in the areas of social/emotional regulation, motor skills, pre-academic readiness and independence all serve to have students who are better prepared for formalized learning as they enter kindergarten.
Indianapolis Public Schools “Programs for Young Children” bridges the gap for children and families from first steps to early childhood special education services. Our team works alongside families and community providers to transition students who qualify for these services into a range of developmentally appropriate programs across the community.
Additionally, we partner with Head Start and Early Learning Indiana to ensure we are reaching families. Together, we discover a student’s strengths, needs and interests by age three to help families make informed choices about their child’s education.
A vigorous early childhood education program is not a substitute for involved, conscientious parenting, but rather a complement to what children need to receive at home. And, we know that our families are seeking high-quality early childhood opportunities as evidenced by the demand that we experience each year for entry into the Pre-Kindergarten programs that we offer. IPS’s commitment to education is a commitment to foster upward social mobility and a fight against the socioeconomic and racial gaps that persist throughout K-12 education in our state.
It’s clear that a conversation about the problems of undervaluing and underfunding education at large is needed in our state, and we should ensure that that conversation includes early childhood education. And, when it comes to both conversations, Indianapolis Public Schools won’t be just a part of the conversation, but also a part of the solution.
This is a reprint of the Op-Ed from IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson, which ran in the Dec. 1 edition of The Indianapolis Star.