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

- Randy Wilhoit is the regional president of PNC Bank in Dallas. Twitter: @PNCBank

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.

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