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Noah Goliday in his pre-K class in Washington, D.C. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Image

Communities are starting to prioritize pre-kindergarten programs to boost children's school performance — as well as to provide quality childcare for parents who need to work.

Why it matters: "This is more than just an educational issue. It's a public health issue, an economic and workforce development issue, and a child poverty issue," said Olivia Allen, project manager at the Children's Funding Project.

  • Research has shown children who aren't prepared for kindergarten often fall behind by the time they reach third and fourth grades, which is when states start accountability testing.
  • But the average pre-school tuition for two children costs $20,000 per year — about a quarter of the median family income.

By the numbers: Enrollment in state-funded pre-school programs has slowly increased over the last 15 years.

In Texas, half-day pre-K programs were available for households with incomes below 185% of the poverty threshold. But it wasn't workable for families that needed full-time care.

  • In 2011, San Antonio voters approved to raise the local sales tax by one-eighth of a percent to expand full-day Pre-K for 4-year-olds across the city. The money went to opening four early education centers — one in each quadrant of the city — serving a total of 2,000 kids per year.
  • Sarah Baray, CEO Of Pre-K4SA, said their research found "children had better reading and math scores, significantly better attendance, and were far less likely to need special education services."
  • The program's success spurred the state to boost funding to increase the number of students beyond those that meet income eligibility requirements.

Pre-K programs have also been shown to help mothers re-enter the work force.

  • In 2009, the District of Columbia began offering two years of universal, full-day preschool to 3- and 4-year olds.
  • The Center for American Progress attributed a 10 percentage-point rise in maternal labor force participation to the preschool expansion.

In New York's Onondaga County, which includes Syracuse, County Executive J. Ryan McMahon sees government-funded pre-K as a way to break the cycle of multigenerational poverty.

  • "We're investing in our young people now so we can make good decisions later — or we'll spend a lot more later when they make poor decisions," McMahon said.

Reality check: States and cities shouldn't prioritize quantity over quality, said Shelley Hearne, president of CityHealth. "There's pressure on everyone to provide more seats, but if those seats are in low-quality environments, we won't see the long-term benefits."

The big question for most cities is how to pay for preschool programs.

  • Philadelphia passed a soda tax to fund early education. Denver dedicated a 0.15% sales tax that has been extended to 2026.
  • Cobbling together enough money to pay teachers a living wage continues to be a challenge.

The good news: "Once it's there, it's not an area where either political party looks to cut," McMahon said. "If you can prove metrics, you can have good results."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Why online games have a shorter life span

"Grand Theft Auto Online" will join a growing list of obsolete games on older platforms this December when Rockstar Game shuts down the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game.

Why it matters: Video game preservation is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to video games, physical or otherwise.

Historic heat wave expands across California, wildfire risk builds

Forecast high temperatures on Thursday from the National Weather Service. (Weatherbell)d

The record-breaking heat wave roasting the West is expanding its grip on Thursday, with the focus of the triple-digit heat shifting into California — particularly the Central Valley and desert regions.

Why it matters: Across the West, the combination of record heat, preexisting drought conditions, and dry lightning strikes from afternoon thunderstorms threatens to ignite numerous wildfires Thursday.

Albuquerque marks 50th anniversary of uprising over police violence

Rebellion at Roosevelt Park in Albuquerque, N.M., June 1971. Photo: Guy Bralley/Albuquerque Journal

Activists in Albuquerque this week commemorated the 50th anniversary of one of the first modern Mexican American rebellions against police over discrimination and harassment.

Why it matters: The "Albuquerque uprising" is part of the forgotten history of protests against police mistreatment of Latinos in the 1960s and 1970s. Since the murder of George Floyd, Latino advocates have tried to draw attention to that history and the often-overlooked police violence against Hispanics today.