Triad parents, district leaders weigh in on universal pre-K proposal

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Fighting long wait lists, some Triad parents say getting their child into an affordable and available pre-K program can be challenging.

“Last year we had to wait about a month, that made it hard for me to find a job because it was a month wait,” parent Megan Collins said.

She considers herself lucky. Right now in Guilford County Schools, 440 children are on the waitlist for pre-K programs. In Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, the list is also about 400 families long.

Teressa Beam leads the district’s Office of Early Learning. She said Wednesday that the need is even greater, as eligible families have to fall within certain income requirements.

“It could be a little over maybe a thousand dollars or so that they don’t qualify, yet the cost of high-quality pre-K programming is very expensive and let’s say you have two children under the age of 5, that is really expensive, so this measure will give an opportunity to have access,” she said.

President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan would seek to change that. The massive proposal would set aside $200 billion for universal pre-K.

“Research shows that children enrolled in a high-quality pre-K program enter school well prepared and are more successful in school and in life. So this opportunity would allow us to expand those high-quality opportunities for children and families,” Beam said.

“The earlier they can get a fresh start on life and start to develop basic things the future it’s always going to be better for them,” parent Antonio King said.

Guilford County has about 1,200 slots for no-cost pre-K programs. If it was offered to everyone, leaders say they would have to make room for about 5,000 children, and finding facilities for those programs could be a challenge.

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