The recent article in the Atlantic, highlighted the importance of early education. It is critical that politicians understand how failing to invest sufficiently in quality early learning programs can have adverse effects on the economy and family well-being. As of 2016, there exists a tremendous need for high quality early childhood education for all children. In order to fulfill this need, policy and decision makers must view the impact of early learning education from an economic perspective while also examining creative ideas to finance, strengthen, and enhance the growth of excellent early learning childhood education.
As a former Head Start Child, I benefited from the great opportunity early care and education programs can have for all children. When these disadvantaged children begin school, the gap between the prepared and unprepared doesn’t shrink – instead it grows significantly. All children, deserve the opportunity to enter school ready and equipped with the tools to succeed. Fortunately, children at risk of performing poorly academically receive a considerable boost from quality early childcare. This observation simply underscores the importance of seriously addressing the existing inefficiencies and needs in Head Start in order to further expand quality childcare.
From an economic perspective, children from economically disadvantaged families reap the most benefits of early learning programs. These children often improve overall academic performance, develop better interpersonal and learning skills, reduce problematic behaviors, and continue to be more successful compared to low-income children who forgo early learning education. Clearly, it’s better to invest in the life of a child now as a form of prevention than later in life when it becomes intervention. Without Head Start, most low-income children would never receive early learning education due to its associated costs. However, there still remain low-income children who never receive this opportunity, making it imperative to expand and improve the program.
As the largest nonprofit Head Start and Early Head Start Grantees in Florida , Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) provided early care and education to over 6,400 children last year. LSF has multiple programs to assist families in Florida. Some of those programs include; Charter Schools, Mental Health and Substance Abuse programs, Child Care Food Program, Youth Shelters, and Family Crisis Counseling, among other programs. With respect to Head Start, I work to ensure that Lutheran Services Florida embodies principles on providing high quality early learning programs and comprehensive services for Families. For example, this organization’s Head Start/Early Head Start programs have centers accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and are designated as a National Head Start Program of Excellence. These programs have also provided over four million meals to children and are working towards “closing the achievement gap” by focusing on performance indicators for African American and Dual Language Learners children in comparison to their peers. Overall, Lutheran Services Florida’s programs are the standard with respect to Head Start/Early Head Start, and I hope to spread our vision throughout the nation.
Concerning the execution of our vision: once we assess a family’s needs, we can build an early learning infrastructure with our local schools and form strong communities. Overall, our children deserve the best: the best teachers, classrooms, and community, and we should never compromise the quality for the mediocre
Louis A. Finney, Jr. is currently the Executive Vice President for Lutheran Services Florida. As a child, he attended a Head Start program and went on to work extensively with these programs. Louis also holds the following positions: President of the Florida Head Start Association, Vice President of the National Association for Family Child Care Homes, and founding President of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the National Black Child Development Institute.