Early Childhood Education & Equity: A 60 Year Perspective – Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Early Childhood Education & Equity: A 60 Year Perspective

Nearly 60 years ago, Ned Breathitt, Kentucky’s 51st governor, addressed his fellow Kentuckians during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the Summer of 1964. Gov. Breathitt made plain his vision for Kentucky’s future:

“Ours is the vision and ours is the growing reality of a great society in which the accidents of race and color, parentage and poverty, and location and geography will not be allowed to dim the light of human hope and to cripple the possibilities of human growth.”

The words of Gov. Breathitt loom large in today’s Commonwealth. We are once again called to make Kentucky a great society for all citizens. By investing in our youngest children today we are able to reignite the light of human hope and accelerate the possibilities of human growth.  Children represent a blank slate of possibilities for themselves, their families, and their communities. Today, the children of Kentucky are our best hope to create the future promised in the summer of 1964. Our state must invest in high-quality child care and early education to achieve the big bold future Governor Breathitt envisioned.

  • Children who participate in high-quality child care and early learning are more likely to be prepared for Kindergarten.

Today, over half of all Kentuckians live in a child care desert, an area with limited to no access to high-quality child care. As a result, less than half of Kentucky’s young children are prepared for kindergarten when the time comes. We must not allow the accidents of geography and location to determine the early academic success of our children.

  • Children who participate in high-quality child care and early learning show higher rates of proficiency in literacy and numeracy by the close of the 3rd grade.

Today Kindergarten-readiness rates persistently rank lower among Black, English language learners, and Latino students. As a result, the reading and math test scores for students of color lag significantly behind their peers in 3rd grade and beyond. We must not allow the accidents of race and color to determine the ability of our children to read and excel in mathematics. 

  • Children who participate in high-quality child care and early learning are 40% less likely to drop out of high school and are better equipped to contribute to Kentucky’s workforce.

Today the costs of attending a high-quality early childhood center accounts for up to 36% of a single parent’s income and in many cases can be more expensive than college tuition. We must not allow the accidents of parentage and poverty to determine the future educational attainment and economic status of our children. 

Progress has been made in the 60 years since Governor Breathitt articulated his vision for a more equitable Kentucky, however, there is still much work to do. We must each pledge to ensure that all Kentuckians, regardless of their race, economic status, or hometown, receive the tools they need to create a big bold future for themselves and others.  We must continue in the struggle to remove race and color, parentage and poverty, and location and geography as determinants of our children’s futures.

Our investment in our youngest learners will determine the Kentucky we leave behind for our children and grandchildren. We must invest in high-quality child care and early education for all children to achieve the big, bold future Governor Breathitt envisioned 60 years ago. Our children cannot afford to wait any longer.

60 years is long enough. 

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