The Dallas Morning News
Texas, let’s invest in pre-K to ensure success
Randy Wilhoit: Public, private collaboration needed to ensure quality early childhood education
As parents and caregivers, few of us would consider ourselves experts on child brain development. But decades of research has established the critical importance of children learning before they reach school age and the role we have in shaping their progress.
During the first five years of life, children begin to learn vocabulary, language, socio-emotional behavior, literacy, math, spatial reasoning, executive function and self-regulation. The impact of this learning and development is immeasurable and often shapes their chances of success in school and life.
Given the importance of a child’s primary years, providing high-quality early education is more prudent than waiting until high school, when issues are often more difficult to remediate. As resources in our state grow tighter and more demands are made on them, we have to be wise about our investment decisions. After all, it is far easier to prevent the achievement gap than to try to close it.
And yet, parents and educators cannot be the only ones ensuring that young children get the right start to life. Public officials and the private sector must join them to convene the necessary resources.
PNC Bank remains a committed advocate of early childhood education because we recognize that learning in a child’s early years is essential for long-term success. Through PNC Grow Up Great, our $350 million, multiyear bilingual initiative that began in 2004, we help prepare at-risk children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life by investing our resources, talent and time by way of collaborative partnership in the communities we serve.
Our company’s experiences and active engagement with early child care centers, teachers, students and their families have helped us better understand that school readiness is not a challenge that any one group or organization can tackle alone, nor is it an issue where we can expect immediate change. It will take a collaborative and meaningful effort from the broader community, public, private and philanthropic, to move the needle on this economic development issue.
As regional president for PNC, I look forward to working alongside Texas’ business, nonprofit and community leaders and meeting with Texas lawmakers so we can all help prepare our youngest children for the educational and economic challenges ahead. During the current Texas legislative session, I encourage lawmakers to consider the funding inherently needed to maintain highquality benchmarks needed for successful pre-K outcomes.
Two years ago, state leaders came together and launched a new pre-K grant program to improve the effectiveness of early childhood programs in our state. We encourage state leaders to come together once again and support focused and increased investment in effective early childhood education so all children and families in Texas have the opportunity to truly succeed.
With the support of our elected officials, businesses leaders and community advocates across the state, we can do more to make a significant difference. Texas’ next-generation workforce and economy depend on it.