Indianapolis- A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds half of Hoosier kids eight years and under are living in poverty. It says living in poverty presents dramatic challenges for kids to develop appropriate skills for success.
Dianna Wallace, the executive director of the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children, admits that Indiana has a lot of room for improvement, but she says the state is starting to pay attention to the needs of young children. She pointed out that Indiana’s new Early Learning Advisory Committee held its first meeting last month.
“The Early Learning Advisory Committee was formed to take a look at and do exactly what the report said: to focus on the integrated, comprehensive system of services that meets the needs of children from birth to age eight.”
The report indicates most young children across the nation are not on track cognitively and lag in social and emotional growth. It concludes that low-income parents need more help to make sure their kids are able to have access to quality services and education.
Wallace said Indiana needs to be proactive, not only for the sake of the kids, but for the future of the state.
“We know that investing the first eight years is critical for children to succeed both in school and later on in life, and the longer we in Indiana wait to support young children and their families the more costly and difficult it becomes to make up for those early setbacks.”
Wallace noted that there are signs of progress – such as the Legislature’s approval of all-day kindergarten – although not all schools have adopted it yet.
“Now we’re not there, but we really made tremendous strides,” she said. “And so two years ago we actually supported full-day kindergarten funding in the school funding formula. And so we’ve got to now make sure that that’s available in all the school corporations across the state.”
The report says that in 2009, 69 to 78 percent of low-income Hoosier three- and four-year-olds were not attending a preschool program. It says attending high-quality preschool can significantly contribute to the development of young children,especially those who are in low-income families.