LAS VEGAS -- Monday is Children's Day in Nevada, but the news is not all good for some of the state's youngest. Nevada is ranked the lowest in the country when it comes to children's access to high quality early education.
Not everyone may agree that all 4 year olds need to attend pre-kindergarten to be better prepared for school, but supporters of pre-k education say the program is crucial, especially for at-risk kids.
Janell Peterson says story time in her pre-k class at Sunrise Acres Elementary becomes more meaningful as the school year progresses. Most of the students at the school don't speak English as a primary language.
"They come to me not speaking English but by the end of the year their English vocabulary has just grown leaps and bounds," Peterson said.
She has been teaching pre-k for nearly 30 years.
"There's never a dull moment, that's for sure."
Advocates for early education were at Sunrise Acres Elementary on Monday to show support for the school's program.
"In Nevada, about 70 percent of 3 and 4 year olds are not attending any type of preschool program, that's the worst statistics in the country," said Denise Tanata-Ashby with Children's Advocacy Alliance.
She says numbers are startling when it comes to the long-term impact of early education. According to research, 25 percent of kids who didn't attend pre-k are more likely to drop out of school and 60 percent more likely to never attend college. Around 70 percent could go on to be arrested for a violent crime.
But with limited federal and state funding, Tanata-Ashby says not every child has access to early education.
"Currently there's a huge waiting list and many of those families will never get off that waiting list," Tanata-Ashby.
Sunrise Acres Elementary School used to have two pre-k classes, but one of the classes was cut last year because a teacher had to move to another school.
"At this age, they learn much quicker, I think, than as they get older," said Janell Peterson, Pre-K teacher.
She believes the building block to success starts in a classroom just like hers. Currently, only 80 out of more than 200 elementary schools in Clark County have a pre-k program. The Children's Advocacy Alliance hopes to get more local businesses to invest in pre-kindergarten education or encourage political leaders to get more funding.
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