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Letter: Illinois shouldn’t have to go it alone

Published: Saturday, May 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Local leaders are right (“DeKalb County child care agencies push for state funding,” May 14th) to back investments that make quality preschool affordable. But Illinois doesn’t have to go it alone.

It’s about fairness. Just 48 percent of low-income children enter Kindergarten school-ready, compared to three-fourths of higher-income kids. Quality pre-K levels the playing field, especially for poor kids. And it cultivates “soft skills” prized by employers, like focus and critical thinking, giving today’s kids a better chance to compete in tomorrow’s economy.

Congress should build a federal-state partnership, like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (All Kids, in Illinois). Federal funds would help states like Illinois make pre-K affordable for every child. And funding would be limited to providers meeting evidence-informed quality standards.

All Kids’ success shows Republicans and Democrats can put kids ahead of politics. Let’s urge Illinois’ leaders in Congress to do it again. A child’s potential, not a parent’s income, should define the limits of academic success.

Bruce Lesley

President, First Focus

Washington, D.C.

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