EdWatch: Early education commission sets lofty goals

By Amy Cherry 9:46pm, April 15, 2014 - Updated 2:01pm, April 16, 2014
VIDEO: WDEL's Amy Cherry talks with the Co-Chairs of the Commission for Early Education and the Economy about their goals.
Two dozen business leaders from up and down the state in the public and non-profit sectors make up the Commission on Early Education and the Economy.

WDEL's Amy Cherry shines the spotlight on this relatively new organization this week in WDEL's Delaware EducationWatch.

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25,000 children ages birth to pre-K come from low income housing. Getting them into qualified pre-K programs is a major goal of the Commission on Early Education and the Economy.

Nick Marsini, President of PNC Bank Delaware and co-chair of the commission explains why this isn't happening more already.

"I don't think a lot of the families that we're talking about have the resources or the wherewithal to get into the qualified programs," said Marsini.

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The gravity of the problem is huge, and if this piece of the education puzzle doesn't come together, the rest may not matter.

"If we don't get this part of it right in education reform, the rest of it is all for naught, and that's a fact. I mean you can sit around here, and we can have all the Race to the Top programs we want, but if we don't get this part of the formula right," said Paul Harrell, Director of Public/Private Partnerships with the Delaware Department of Education.

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Harrell, who also serves as commission co-chair, says he's seeing another avenue of pre-K programs emerging.

"I had a superintendent tell me, 'I'm having so many problems with kids coming into kindergarten that are so far behind so I'm going to start my own pre-K program,'" Harrell said.

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While raising awareness to the problem, the commission also seeks to shine a spotlight on what some places are doing right. Marsini points to the West Center City Day Care center.

"I would challenger anybody to go and visit these programs. It's been absolutely astounding what they've done with the resources they have," said Marsini.

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As Co-Chair, Marsini has set a lofty goal for the end of year one. He wants members of the commission to serve as true change agents.

"To make a deep enough penetration so that we can get a large portion of these 25,000 children who come from very, very low-income families into these programs that qualify, where they will be able to go in, they will be able to start the learning process, and they will be prepared to go to kindergarten," said Marsini.

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The commission meets quarterly. Their next meeting is Tuesday, April 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at St. Andrews School in Middletown. Space is limited. If you'd like to attend please RSVP to Ranie Good at ranie.good@state.de.us.

To see the agenda for the meeting, click here.

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