Why does preschool matter?

22 August 2014 Written by  

Voices for Utah Children’s long-standing track record of improving for the lives of kids and families has become even more focused on children’s early years as researchers have grown the science of early childhood development. National studies, and our own research on programs right here in Utah, show that high-quality preschool can close the achievement gap and significantly reduce remediation costs.

Why do children need quality, early childhood education?

The achievement gap starts early. By kindergarten, children from low-income families have approximately half the vocabulary of their more affluent counterparts. We know that children who start behind, stay behind. Children who are not proficient in reading by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than children who read at or above grade level — and 13 times more likely, if they live in poverty.

A child’s brain grows to roughly 85 percent of its full capacity in the first five years of life. These are also the years when a child’s sense of what is possible is being formed.

Business and military leaders, educators, and economists support preschool. The Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the United States Chamber of Commerce, found in a 2010 report that “for every dollar invested today, savings range from $2.50 to as much as $17 in the years ahead.” Research by the University of Chicago economist James J. Heckman, a Nobel laureate, points to a 7- to 10-percent annual return on investment in high-quality preschool. The parents of 42,000 children attending preschool in Utah support preschool. The parents of children on the waiting list statewide support preschool.

Well-off, well-educated families, who can afford pre-K education are sending their children to preschool. We know that struggling families who are living in poverty, have modest educations, and live in challenged circumstances, can’t. In Utah:

• Children in families at or above 200% poverty who are not in preschool:  53%*

• Children in families below 200% poverty who are not in preschool:  69%*


You can see the success story for yourself. Just visit our website www.utahchildren.org and click on the “Watch Us on YouTube” to watch a five-minute video “Right from the Start” that we produced about the Granite District Preschool program. Hear from children who were considered very at-risk in preschool who at the time were in fourth grade and performing at or above students statewide. Hear them share their dreams for the future – college, becoming an airplane pilot, finding a cure for breast cancer and helping people learn to speak English.



Right from the Start


 *Data Source: Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2005-07 to 2009-11 three-year American Community Survey.






April Young Bennett 300April Young Bennett, Communications Director, joined the organization in 2014. She received her Master of Public Administration from the University of Arizona and her Bachelor in Community Health Education from Utah State University. Prior to joining Voices for Utah Children, April worked for the Utah Department of Health for over a decade, addressing health disparities among minorities and other underserved Utahns. She completed internships and fellowships with the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy and the U.S. Senate.