Last week, in the State of the Union address, President Barack Obama urged that more efforts be made at getting children into preschool. That is certainly a concern that resonates in the Top of Utah. The Ogden School District is making a serious effort to get children from low-income homes into preschool.
The district, partnered with other community groups, is practically begging the parents of these youngsters to take advantage of the Ogden United Promise Neighborhood Initiative.
There are hundreds of youngsters who would benefit from this preschool program in Junction City. However, it's likely that only a small fraction of the kids and families to which the preschool program is targeted are taking advantage of it.
Those numbers are a great concern to Ogden School Board President Shane Story and others. It does not matter whether a preschool program is subsidized by the feds, state, or local officials, if we can't get parents to send their youngsters to the preschools, we have a major problem.
Once a district gets the money to provide early education, the job is far from over. There needs to be tremendous efforts to convince parents to send their children to the preschools. It will require brainstorming ideas, such as: Are the schedules set by the schools conducive to the work schedules of two parents? Are the parents whose children are eligible for preschool able to converse in English? If not, are there school representatives fluent in other languages contacting the parents? Do the parents fully understand the advantages of a child -- particularly one from a low-income home -- being taught basic skills in preschool?
It's fortunate that the president, the Ogden School District, and others have put preschool on the minds of today's leaders. The Utah Legislature is also tackling the issue. There are bills in the hopper or being prepared by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, as well as Utah legislators Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, and Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan.
We hope that the Legislature promotes preschool this year, but it also needs to explore ideas on how to get more kids in the classes.