Effects of early childhood education recognized in Rapid City
City to look at ways to expand education for youngest age groups
South Dakota is one of five states to not offer state-funded early education and the stress of education can come down to the local level.
Mayor Steve Allender brought this subject up a few weeks ago when he invited some local experts in education to view a documentary spotlighting the importance of early education.
“Early childhood education is, I believe, is the root issue when it comes to poverty,” said Allender.
In the years before children head off to kindergarten, their brains are hard-wiring for life. These growing years shape cognitive learning, physical development, and social interactions that get them ready for years in the classroom.
Kids don’t always grow at the same rate and some children raised in low-income households, can get left behind.
“Children from those types of backgrounds are likely to hear approximately 30 million fewer words and interact contextually with an adult by the time the child is three years old,” said David Miller, Associate Executive Director at Youth and Family Services.
Miller says the research into the importance of early education has been around for at least a decade but growing awareness brings the subject back up time after time.
“It is so important and absolutely is truth,” said Miller. “There is validity to a number of research studies that have shown that the need, the importance of early learning is beneficial not just to the individual but to the society.”
Last week, the South Dakota House Affairs Committee voted down House Bill 1175, citing that it is up to parents to provide early education.
“Why is that a government issue? Because all of the other government issues that we talk about, work force, poverty, crime and all this kind of stuff relates back to early childhood education,” said Allender.
Rapid City is seeing an increase in demand for early education and is trying to keep up with the growth.
A number of organizations in the Black Hills offer early head start and head start education from birth to age six with partial funding from state grants.
YFS is expanding its 120 East Adams Street location to provide more classrooms to keep in par with demand.
Miller says there are not enough programs in the area to meet the needs; particularly the age 0-3 range needs providers. The early age range is more challenging and with a lower ratio of adults to kids, the cost ends up higher.
“The families that need it the most, that need educated based day care would not be able to justify that expense,” said Allender.
To continue the conversation in Rapid City into the topic of early education, Allender says he aims to bring leaders in education together to decide on what the next step is.
“We will put together a working group to identify the issues,” said Allender. “Gauge how helpful we can be and start something.”