Governor Chris Gregoire stunned early-learning advocates yesterday with her last-minute veto of part of the education reform bill that would have provided preschool for at-risk 3-and-4-year-olds.
Her reason? She believes all kids deserve access to preschool, not just poor kids. And she pledged to work on that next year.
But one look at the numbers makes her promise look like pie-in-the-sky. Adding preschool to the state's K-12 system for all kids would cost about $1 billion per year vs. the $170 million price tag for just those at risk. That's going to be a tough sell in this economy.
Why not start with the kids who really need it? The ones whose parents can't afford preschool. Who don't get tucked into bed every night hearing Good Night Moon and The Little Engine That Could and five other books. Who arrive at kindergarten so far behind that the odds are against them from day one.
If we don't pay now, we will pay later. These kids will need tutoring to make it through elementary school. By middle school, they'll be acting out in class or daydreaming in the corner because they've given up. By high school, they'll be dropouts.
And the saddest part of all? Missing the chance to tap into the love of learning that shines so brightly in those early years.
(Photo: by Ann Norman)