Have we reached universal Pre-K in the District?
At his town hall meetings across the city, D.C. Council Chairman and presumed-Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray has been touting a key achievement in early childhood education. According to Gray, D.C. has reached the milestone of universal public Pre-K four years ahead of schedule. The District's Pre-K Enhancement and Expansion Act of 2008 called for the city to ensure that there were enough free Pre-K slots for all three- and four-year-olds by 2014, and he says we have already done that as of last month.
Furthermore, Gray adds that if this is correct, it would make D.C. the first "state" to reach this milestone. We are still working to confirm this. If true, it is a huge accomplishment for the District and one that we must all join together to celebrate and support.
However, we must continue to work towards the other improvements mandated by the legislation, including ensuring that all Pre-K teachers have the means and ability to attain their teaching certification by 2014 -- which may prove to be a bigger hurdle to clear. We salute our partners at the National Black Child Development Institute, which recently announced that it was bringing the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholarship model to the District, which will enable many more early care and education teachers to earn their credential.
Clearly, the District is ahead of the curve in offering universal Pre-K. Alexandria, Va., is just starting to offer public Pre-K, citing the fact that one in four children in that city arrive at Kindergarten unable to count or identify letters. (Scroll down to read the story on WAMU.)