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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

20 mins ago - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.

Court rejects Trump campaign's appeal in Pennsylvania case

Photo: Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously rejected the Trump campaign's emergency appeal seeking to file a new lawsuit against Pennsylvania's election results, writing in a blistering ruling that the campaign's "claims have no merit."

Why it matters: It's another devastating blow to President Trump's sinking efforts to overturn the results of the election. Pennsylvania, which President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, certified its results last week and is expected to award 20 electoral votes to Biden on Dec. 12.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Belarus dictator Lukashenko says he'll leave post after new constitution

Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty

Longtime Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said he will step down after a new constitution comes into force, according to Belarusian state media.

Why it matters: Lukashenko has faced three months of protests following a rigged election in August. He has promised to reform the constitution to reduce the near-absolute powers of the president, but has insisted that his strong hand is needed to see that process through.