In the United States, one out of every five children lives below the poverty line. Children living in poverty are more likely to experience physical and mental health issues, which impacts their ability to perform well in school and stay in school.1 Decreased school performance begins as early as kindergarten. Only 48% of poor children are ready for school at age five, compared to 75% of moderate to high-income children. This large gap, due to decreased levels of skills and health, can follow children throughout their lives, causing academic and behavioral struggles in grade school, failure to complete high school or college, and lifelong economic struggle.2
In order to combat the school readiness gap between poor and affluent children, preschool education is a must. The simple fact is that children who attend preschool programs are more prepared for school than children who do not. Further, poor and disadvantaged children benefit the most from preschool education. Dual-language learners benefit greatly from preschool education, increasing their English language proficiency among other skills.3 On the other hand, middle and upper-class children do not benefit significantly from attending preschool, and the gains they do make tend to fade by fifth grade.4 But this does not mean that only poor children should attend preschool, as all children can benefit from preschool programs and promoting diversity in classrooms remains important to the learning experience.5
Unfortunately, the US falls behind in preschool education levels. According to the OECD, the US ranks 35th among developed economies in pre-primary or primary-school enrollment for three to five-year-olds--very low. Only 44% of low-income students attend preschool programs, compared to 69% of high-income students.6 Clearly, the US needs to invest in and expand its preschool education programs, yet this is a tricky problem without an easy solution. Children benefit from preschool when they receive high-quality education, but ensuring that children are receiving this level of education is difficult. There is also debate around whether or not preschool should be universal or if programs and funding should be targeted towards lower-income families. Federal funding for preschool programs is also steeped in politics, making it difficult for the government to reach a consensus.
Luckily, nonprofits like Simply Virtuous-endorsed Jumpstart are working to provide high-quality preschool education to low-income students. Jumpstart programs operate in 15 states, including Washington DC, and served 13,035 children in 2018. Children who attend Jumpstart programs make 1.5x greater gains in important literacy skills, and 73% of Jumpstart children displayed average, above average, superior, or very superior scores as measured by a direct assessment at the end of the year.7 You can learn more about Jumpstart and donate to the charity through the Simply Virtuous website by clicking here.