High-quality preschool lays a strong foundation for children’s later success—not just in their early years and in school, but also well into their adult lives and even in their relationships and careers.
That’s why achieving universal access to high-quality preschool is essential for helping to reduce Portland's substantial achievement gap and enable all kids in the city to thrive.
Studies show that the early preschool experience has broad and persistent impacts on learning, development, health, and well-being. Children who attend quality preschool programs grow up more likely to do well in school, graduate high school, find good jobs, and form more stable relationships.
The benefits are particularly significant for children living in poverty—but these children are least likely to have access to high-quality programs.
Many cities and states have universal pre-K programs, and some are moving to universal preschool for both 3- and 4-year-olds. For instance, the District of Columbia's program serves 66% of 3-year-olds and 88% of 4-year-olds. Vermont's preschool program reaches 75% of 4-year-olds and 60% of 3-year-olds. Even Oklahoma enrolls 74% of its 4-year-olds in pre-K.
Portland had a goal to achieve universal access to public pre-K for 4-year olds by 2016—but did not have a plan to get there, and we missed that deadline.
Currently, only 22% of Portland's 4-year olds attend public preschool programs. Portland is behind the state as a whole—38.6% of 4-year olds in Maine attended public preschool programs in the 2016-2017 school year.
There are many barriers that limit the ability of families to participate in Portland’s public preschool program, including hours, transportation, and the location of programs. The biggest barrier may be the fact that the school day ends at 1:30 p.m.—a challenge for many working families.
In the past year, Portland Public Schools, in partnership with Starting Strong, completed a comprehensive study on the need for and barriers to public pre-K and brought stakeholders across the city together to develop a plan for high-quality pre-K for all.
Now it’s time to put the plan into action. Emily is committed to building on all of the work that’s been done in the city to put a strong plan in place to achieve high quality preschool for all.