Thursday, October 10th House Democratic Leader Michael John Gray (District 47- Augusta), Representative Scott Baltz (District 61- Pocahontas) and Representative James Ratliff (District 60- Imboden) met with Sloan-Hendrix superintendent, Clifford Rorex and ABC Supervisor Gregg Cooper, Director Donna Harris, and Early Childhood Coordinator Mandy Durham of the Northeast Arkansas Educational Co-Op to discuss the impact of early childhood learning and the benefits of prekindergarten education.  The Democratic Representatives are advocating for more Pre-K funding.  Pre-K programs throughout the state are in need of more money added into the budget to keep up with the cost of living.

At the Sloan-Hendrix campus the pre-school program has been in place for over 25 years and currently has a total of 58 children enrolled. The school provides the space for the pre-school, meals, and transportation Mr. Rorex told the group.

During a round table discussion, Mr. Cooper of the Northeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative said there are waiting lists for many area preschools and added funding could mean the ability to reach more children.

Representative James Ratliff of our District 60 stated “We need to reach as many children as possible. Placing this issue on the radar and letting people know that there is a need  for more funding of Pre-K education is our goal.”

There is strong evidence showing that young children who participate in high-quality pre-k programs enter school more ready to learn than their peers. Students who have access to quality early education are more likely to graduate from high school, are more likely to succeed in post-secondary education, and upon entering the workforce they have more opportunities to earn higher wages.  Research has shown that the Arkansas Better Chance Program has a  significant impact on children’s early language, literacy and mathematical development.

House Democratic Leader Michael John Gray asked the Co-op representatives what the current greatest need for the pre-k program was. They stated that priority funding to teach children who need it most and a more flexible grading system to qualify.

During the tour of the Sloan-Hendrix preschool we saw first hand the benefits that pre-k has to offer children in this area.

This is one of many facilities members of the Arkansas House of Representatives Democratic Caucus have toured as part of the LEAD listening tour.

The Arkansas House of Representatives Democratic Caucus is advocating for legislative ways to expand state funding for programs that give every child access to a quality prekindergarten education.

Any mention of Pre-k education was removed from the state Republican Party platform earlier this year.

Budget decisions concerning the Pre-K programs will be made during the legislative session beginning in January.

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