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Why Preschool Matters?

Decades of research have proven that quality early learning and care programs are a smart investment. Economist James Heckman has demonstrated that early interventions can break the cycle of poverty for multiple generations. Parents do better. Children do better. And when those children become adults, their children also do better. For every dollar invested in early childhood programs, society yields a $6.30 return, improving education, employment and health outcomes and saving on later remediation costs. 1

25%

Are 25% more likely to graduate high school.  2

4x

Are 4x more likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. 3

25%

Earn up to 25% more 
in wages as an adult.
4

$1

For every dollar invested in early childhood programs, society yields a $6.30 return. 1

WHY PRESCHOOL IS GOOD FOR ST. HELENA KIDS 

St. Helena Star

August 16, 2023

By Rebekah Rocha, Principal of the St. Helena Primary School

We have a unique opportunity in St. Helena to provide preschool scholarships at private preschools for families in need. Most people reading the newspaper understand the importance of preschool education! According to research from “California All Kids, Master Plan for Early Learning and Care”, an abundance of evidence shows that high-impact preschool programs help promote school readiness, especially for children living in poverty and others at risk of falling behind. Also, growing evidence indicates that preschool programs can have lasting benefits on later school performance and adult life, including higher lifetime earnings, improved health, and reduced dependence on social welfare programs.  Since becoming Principal at St. Helena Primary School, I have had the honor of being part of the St. Helena Preschool for All Board of Directors. I had never worked in a town that had a non-profit that provided preschool scholarships for children in their community.  In most communities, preschools and public schools are segregated by ethnicity, race, language, and/or family income. Starting at an early age, children don’t have the opportunity to go to school together. Many times, low-income families enroll their children in government-subsidized preschools. While those programs are amazing, due to income restrictions, other children can’t attend. St. Helena no longer has a Head Start or State Funded preschool. If parents work in St. Helena, they rely on the scholarships from St. Helena Preschool for All.  Preschool For All offers different tiers of scholarships (depending on the families' needs) to many different preschools in St. Helena, Angwin, and Calistoga. I have had the pleasure of visiting all of the preschools in St. Helena and have noticed that there is a range of Spanish and English-speaking children at each one. This means that our students can start forming friendships with each other at a very young age. When I visited one of our local preschools, I recognized a picture of children playing together from several years back. I now had those students at the Primary School. I realized that one of the boys had parents who owned a vineyard and the other friend had parents who worked in the vineyards. That photo stuck with me. This is one of the many examples of why St. Helena is a special place for children.  You may not be aware that St. Helena Preschool for All isn’t just about providing for families that meet the criteria of being low-income. Napa County is an expensive place to raise a family! With the high cost of housing, the addition of having to pay for all-day preschool for one child could be as much as $1,200 per month. Even a middle-class family may struggle to afford that. The “California All Kids, Master Plan for Early Learning and Care” states that, while a major purpose of publicly supported preschool is to help close the achievement gap for children from low-income families, the programs have also been found to benefit children whose families do not qualify for means-tested programs but still have difficulty affording quality programs. Preschool for All does just that - we offer financial assistance via a tiered model depending on the income level of the family. While some families may qualify for full scholarships, others receive help to cover part of the cost of preschool.  Many parents in St. Helena have to work at least one full-time job. With both parents working full-time, it is even more important that they secure high-quality, all-day care for their child. While some families may be able to pay for a preschool program that is only three hours per day, they may have no one to pick their child up during that time frame and need to ensure all-day care for them. St. Helena Preschool for All supports working families to afford just this. With our range of scholarships for families, we can meet their needs. Some scholarships are for a partial day, and some are for a full day. This gives parents peace of mind while they are hard at work in our community.  When our students start with us in Transitional Kindergarten or Kindergarten, our teachers know right away if a child has attended preschool or not. Students who have had the opportunity to experience a preschool program come to us with school readiness, meaning they often have higher levels of physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Oftentimes, when students have not had a preschool experience, they have a very hard time transitioning to school. Many times, they are traumatized and suffer from separation anxiety, as they have never been away from family before. Oftentimes, it is harder for them to connect to their teacher as well as other peers. They spend the first few months of school getting comfortable in a learning environment. In comparison, students who have been to preschool are able to start learning right away. They are excited and happy to be at school and tend to do better academically than students who have never attended preschool. According to research done by the Chicago Parent-Child Centers, children who attended preschool for one or two years had a higher rate of high school completion; more years of completed education; and lower rates of juvenile arrest, violent arrests, and school dropout. We are grateful for all of the amazing preschools in our community, and so thankful to our generous community donors who help ensure that all children, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to attend one of them. 

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