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Reforming VA's Preschool Initiative

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A number of studies suggest that young children who enter pre-kindergarten programs develop their learning skills more effectively than those who don't.

That's one reason why state lawmakers recently decided to examine and reform the Virginia Preschool Initiative.   One of the underlying issues is making sure that low-income children have access to—and take advantage of— those programs.

Some of the reasons why children don't enroll include lack of affordability, eligibility, and other challenges.

Lori Connors-Tadros with the Center for Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes says most states do have publicly funded pre-K programs and some do target families in poverty, but low-income children gain more when they're in economically diverse classrooms.

A number of localities that are eligible for the Virginia Preschool Initiative do not participate in the program, leaving thousands of unfilled slots--and making early education much less accessible for those low-income children.

Experts also say the enrollment process which families go through can be rather overwhelming--especially for low-income families--and as Virginia policymakers move forward, they'll need to consider access, equity, and sustainability.

Tommie McNeil is a State Capitol reporter who has been covering Virginia and Virginia politics for more than a decade. He originally hails from Maryland, and also doubles as the evening anchor for 1140 WRVA in Richmond.
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