Editorial: Plan to consolidate prekindergarten programs a smart move

Lost in much of the furor over other reforms to Louisiana education, a move to consolidate all prekindergarten education programs under one umbrella should garner universal support.

The concept is to bring the same sort of accountability that elementary and secondary public schools in the state must adhere to pre-K education providers.

‘‘A lot of the challenges we see in Louisiana is because our kids get so far behind so quickly,’’ state Superintendent of Education John White told the American Press’ editorial board earlier this week.

White said that by third grade, half of the students in the state are below grade level in either math or English language arts.

‘‘These facts are stunning,’’ he said.

And he believes there is a link between those numbers and prekindergarten education in the state. He notes that only half of the students entering kindergarten recognize all 26 letters of the alphabet and are able to count to 20.

Simply put, many of those students who start kindergarten behind their peers never catch up.

White describes the condition of pre-K education in Louisiana as ‘‘fragmented.’’

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform package, approved by state lawmakers earlier this year, included Act 3, the Louisiana Early Childhood Act. The law seeks to change the way early childhood education and care in the state is governed, delivered, assessed and funded.

White said the act’s goal is to create one system of unified funding, academics and accountability for pre-K education, and for it to be in place by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. Those recommendations will be made by the state Board of

Elementary and Secondary Education to the state Legislature, which will craft laws to put the unified system in place.

White said it will be a real shift for day-care providers and Head Start. He praised the Calcasieu school system for managing the local Head Start program but said that is the exception, not the rule, for other school systems’ oversight of Head Start throughout the state.

The state’s LA4 program has shown particular promise in closing the education gap for at-risk 4-year-olds through the state.

Now Act 3 takes a bigger step in ensuring that all students entering kindergarten in the state of Louisiana are where they should be academically.

If there’s anything to criticize here, it’s that it won’t be implemented until 2014-15. Given how fast other parts of the governor’s education reform package became policy, is it too much to ask to have Act 3 up and running by next August?

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.