How Much Have We Lost?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Assessing Status: 1st Meeting of Preschool Working Group

Tonight, I met with several folks interested in improving access to preschool education in the U.S. 1 Corridor at the Mount Vernon Government Center. I discussed this initiative on my blog and during my campaign:


The Mount Vernon Community is divided into two communities in many ways. East of U.S. 1 along the Potomac River there are approximately 14 preschools. West of U.S. 1, there are virtually none. Schools that draw diverse student populations from west of U.S. 1 have significant challenges with testing scores bearing out challenges for students from families with lower incomes (Mt. Vernon Gazette, Test Scores: It's Complicated (May 27, 2010)).

One of the biggest problems is a shortage of money. There is more demand for Head Start and subsidized childcare than there are slots. The state budget is severely restricted. Local budgets are very tight due to the recession and limited revenue sources. Full funding could go a long way toward mitigating these problems.


Our group also identified the following problems with access and utilization of preschool, quality childcare and/or early childhood education in the corridor:
  • Affordability for Low-Income Families
  • Cultural Barriers
  • Language Barriers
  • Affordable Transportation Options
  • Lack of Affordable Space for Operations
  • Lack of Affordable Options or Subsidized Slots in Existing Programs
  • Lack of Convenient Options (Both in terms of locations and hours of operation)
  • Lack of Effective Parent Mentoring Programs
  • Lack of Federal, State and Local Funding for Head Start, Early Childhood Education, and Quality Childcare Programs.

We also identified the following areas to focus on in moving forward:

  • Identifying obstacles and strategies to achieve full federal Head Start funding
  • Determining the long-term status of the old Mt. Vernon High School property and initiating discussions regarding use of the property for pre-K education
  • Investigating the feasibility of tax credits for commercial property owners in areas underserved by low-rent facilities such as churches
  • Investigating feasibility of government-supported transportation options for childcare
  • Reviewing ways to stop proposed state rules to limit state support of subsidized childcare to five years per family.
  • Investigating licensed daycare provider rules to ascertain feasibility of setting standards for quality of time children spend in childcare and not just safety metrics.
  • Investigating feasibility of developing model curriculum and/or grant programs for parent mentoring.

If you have any ideas about any of these programs as we continue this discussion and look toward solutions, please feel free to post your comments here or email them to my aide, Chris Bea, at DelSSurovell@virginia.house.gov. Also, please contact us if you would like to attend our meetings and participate in the discussions.

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