A Look at the Need for Free Quality Preschools

Lynchburg, VA - There is a need for more free high-quality preschool options throughout the state. In last week's State of the Union, President Obama called for a plan to provide more. In Lynchburg, there are not many options. The state has the Virginia Preschool Initiative, but not all students get to take advantage of it. It is all based on how much space is available.

"Children from low income families tend to start out in Kindergarten with a 6 month delay as compared to their counterparts," said Karen Wesley, Smart Beginnings Central Virginia.

It is especially important for families earning a lower income. According to Wesley, kids who miss out on a preschool education are at a disadvantage compared to their peers. As as they continue their studies, the gap amongst these kids widens.

"And by 5th grade that could be like a 2 year difference," said Wesley.

It is hard to get into these programs. Take Head Start for example. The program is federally funded but they have a waiting list.

"It's just the start of recruiting season for everybody right now, so by the time school starts in Sept. our waiting list will be closer to 300 children," said Dorothy Holmes, Head Start.

They say they could always use more money and community support so they can expand.

"With small children, you need a lot of hands," said Holmes.

90% of their students are classified as coming from low income families. But experts say all kids can benefit from a preschool education.

"Those first five years are very important years in the child's life," said Holmes.

"We definitely need more funding to have preschool available to more children," said Wesley.

The main question that still remains unanswered is where will the money come from?

"I don't have an idea, but I hope they find it wherever it's coming from," said Holmes.

Lynchburg City Schools say they too do not have details of what the proposal might look like but will learn more in the coming months. The Virginia Department of Social Services does provide some child care subsidies; it is awarded on a case by case basis.