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Guest Commentary: Education prepares children for a lifetime of success

By Chris Hansen - | Dec 16, 2020

Every child deserves a chance.

Research has long proven that a high-quality early childhood education program can make lifechanging differences for children. During the first five years of a child’s life, his or her brain develops by 90%. This period before they enter kindergarten is crucial in their overall development. It’s when they build an academic foundation based on strong reading, writing and math skills. It’s also where they will develop social, behavioral and emotional skills that guide them through school and beyond.

Unfortunately, not every child has the same opportunity.

Early childhood education programs are expensive. The average cost in Florida –$770 per month for infants and $607 per month for 4-year-olds — is among the nation’s highest. With many parents still out of work or working fewer hours because of the pandemic, the fees to enroll their children in an early learning program are simply too much to bear.

As a community, we cannot allow these children to miss this opportunity to better their lives through education.

The cost of not investing in our children is staggering. Children who do not attend a high-quality early childhood education are 25% more likely to drop out of school, 40% more likely to become a teen parent, 50% more likely to be placed in special education classes, 60% more likely to not attend college and 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. Another alarming statistic is that children from low-income households hear 30 million fewer words by age 3 than children from more affluent households.

By keeping tuition costs low, Child Care of Southwest Florida also is allowing parents to become productive citizens. They can go to work without forking over a sizable percentage of their paychecks to child care. They can go back to school and earn professional certifications or a college degree, credentials that can accelerate their career trajectory and earning potential.

Parents should not be forced to choose between pursuing a better-paying job and enrolling their sons and daughters in an early learning program. They should have access to both.

Child care scholarships can foster economic progress in a community. Working parents often lose government assistance as they make financial gains. Empowering families with child care scholarships and assistance allows parents to pursue their career aspirations while preparing children for a lifetime of success.

Child Care of Southwest Florida’s Primary Needs Scholarships are allowing health care workers, educators, retail associates, restaurant employees and others to work full-time. It’s allowing those in entry-level positions to take classes on nights and weekends so they’ll qualify for a promotion down the road.

Most importantly, it’s allowing all children, regardless of their family’s financial situation, to start their formal learning sooner so they’re ready for the academic challenges that await in elementary school.

Generous individuals and businesses can support the Primary Needs Scholarship program through four giving levels: $40 to sponsor a child for one day, $200 for a week, $800 for a month or $10,000 for one year.

This holiday season, please consider giving the gift of education. It’s the gift of a lifetime and an investment into the future of a child in need.

For more information or to discuss sponsorship opportunities, please call 239-278-1002 or visit www.ccswfl.org/giving.

— Chris Hansen is CEO of Child Care of Southwest Florida, a nonprofit early childhood education provider with five accredited learning centers in Lee and Hendry counties.