Universal pre-K could be a game-changer for kids, Kansas City leaders say


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As negotiations continue on President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, universal pre-kindergarten has survived the latest round of cutbacks.

Leaders at Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City believe that would be a game-changer for kids, educationally and emotionally.

Biden’s $3.5 trillion domestic policy plan shrank to about $1.75 trillion. The proposal scraps money for paid family leave, lower prescription drug prices and a tax on billionaires.

The plan still includes expanded health care programs, climate change and free pre-kindergarten.

“I know the difference that it will make for children is huge,” Operation Breakthrough CEO Mary Esselman said.

Esselman supports universal pre-K. She said starting school “kindergarten ready” is a determining factor for a successful future. Research shows less than 50% of children in poverty will enter school ready.

“And that’s a pretty frightening statistic,” Esselman said. “So the thought that we would be able to give more access to more children I think would be absolutely amazing.”

Some public schools in Kansas and Missouri currently offer pre-K programs to students with special needs or those who are considered “at-risk.”

“Schools in Missouri are actually able to bill-back for preschool for 4% of their enrollment,” Esselman said.

While Missouri said it cannot comment on pending legislation, the Kansas Department of Education sent FOX4 this statement:

“Early childhood education, or what we refer to as kindergarten readiness, is a key component of Kansas’ vision for education. At no time is the learning gap greater than when our children enter kindergarten. While we haven’t seen the details of President Biden’s plan, we’re very encouraged to see the importance of early childhood learning being elevated at the national level.”

“Teachers are actually able to teach kindergarten content. It lifts the entire school,” Esselman said. “So imagine if we were able to do that in the community, in the state and even national. It would definitely be a difference maker.”

Although the framework for the deal is in place, this is still a proposal. It still needs to get through the House and the Senate.

Democrats can’t lose a single vote among their ranks in the split 50-50 Senate. Biden told House lawmakers this proposal will get the necessary votes.

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