The Community Presbyterian Church plans to open a day care center to help fill the void left by the shutdown of Head Start last year.
The Payson school board last week approved the lease of the same district building on South Westerly Road in which Head Start had operated.
“I think it’s great the building will be used for something that supports not only our district, but our community. I was sad when Head Start announced it wasn’t continuing and they were previously in that building,” said Board President Barbara Underwood. “It’s a great cause.”
The new program will help address a critical shortage of preschool options for working parents throughout Rim Country, turned into something of a crisis when Head Start shut down with its subsidies for low-income families. Roughly half of the families with kids in Payson schools qualify for free and reduced lunches under federal family income guidelines.
In one recent national survey, Arizona ranked 43rd among the states with access to day care. The Wallet Hub study considered measurements of quality and access. That included things like the percentage of 3- to 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten programs, income requirements for subsidized programs like Head Start, per-student spending on preschool programs, and monthly payments and co-payments as a percentage of family income.
Arizona ranked 45th overall, with a total score of 35. That compares to a score of 72 for Nebraska and 18 for last-place Indiana. Arizona got a score of 48 for access, 32 for quality and 49 for resources and support.
One recent study by the National Institute for Early Education Research found students in full-day pre-K programs do better on math and literacy tasks than students in half-day programs. A host of studies shows that the social and academic boost offered by a good pre-K program affects not only success in school, but future social costs ranging from the risk of crime to the need for social services.
A RAND Corporation review of scientific studies on preschool programs found good programs yield benefits when it comes to future academic achievement, behavior, educational progression, delinquency, crime, employment and other measurements.
The benefits depended on better-trained providers and smaller child-to-staff ratios. Overall, good early childhood programs yielded $1.80 to $17 in benefits for every dollar spent. (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9145.html).
The RAND study looked at long-term outcomes connected to 19 programs and found significant benefits from19 of those programs. In some cases, the measured benefits faded out after several years. Sometimes, they appeared to persist for 35 years.
Payson families have one advantage in early education, which is the school district’s decision to continue offering all-day kindergarten, even after the state legislature cut funding for the expanded hours during the recession.
Payson shifted other funds to support a program critical to many working parents, which research shows also increases critical reading scores on into third grade for many students.
Gov. Doug Ducey finally allocated some additional money to help districts return to all-day kindergarten, but it will help only a handful of districts in low-income areas.
Payson continues to offer all-day kindergarten with money shifted from other categories.
In 2014, Arizona families paid an average of $9,437 annually for day care, according to an Economic Policy Institute report, putting high-quality programs out of reach for most families — especially in rural areas like Payson.
Quality of early education in Arizona (1=Best; 25=Avg.):
· 44th– share of 3- and 4-year-olds Enrolled in pre-K, pre-K Special Education and Head Start
· 37th– total reported spending per child enrolled in preschool
· 20th– monthly child care co-payment fees as a percent of family income
· 24th– share of school districts that offer state pre-K program
· 39th– pre-K program growth
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