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Kansas superintendents tout investments in early-childhood education

March 8, 2018
Tim Carpenter
The Topeka Capital-Journal

Seaman Unified School District 345 superintendent Steve Noble joined two other public school officials Wednesday to extol for Kansas House members the virtue of investing in early-childhood education programs.

In the fall, Seaman is scheduled to begin serving 250 children who are 3 or 4 years old in its remodeled Mathes Early Learning Center.

“It is estimated that approximately 63 percent of the students will be identified with a special education or at-risk need,” Noble said.

If the district hadn’t embraced a universal preschool program, he said, some of the 37 percent of students who don’t qualify for state funding would be left to initiate their formal education at kindergarten. That is past the prime opportunity to achieve benefits of early intervention, he said.

Noble, Hoisington superintendent Bill Lowry and Coffeyville superintendent Craig Correll shared with the House Education Budget Committee their justification for continued or enhanced state aid for early-childhood education.

Correll said research indicated students who attended a high-quality early-learning program were 30 percent less likely to require special education and 30 percent more likely to graduate high school.

“They also show much greater self-regulation, problem-solving and self-awareness skills,” he said.

He said the Coffeyville district created a nonprofit that raised $2.1 million to build an early-childhood center.

“We are proud that we are serving almost 75 percent of our upcoming kindergarten students in this center, but what about the other 25 percent?” he said.