Pre-K Black Belt kids overlooked

Published 6:43 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pre-kindergarten is so important to the educational development of children, especially children who are deemed from “at-risk” areas.

These areas rank at or near the top in high poverty, high unemployment and low educational attainment. The children in these areas have moms that work three part-time jobs to feed the family or have a missing father, perhaps in a jail somewhere for some drug-related crime. Or even these kids just are the kids of dropouts who don’t have the parenting skills to give their children a boost.

Pre-kindergarten can help parents, too by strengthening the commitment to and attitude toward school and enhance the parenting skills of the children who participate in these preschool programs.

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Take, for instance, a study in Chicago of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers. These centers provide education and family support to low-income children from ages 3 to 9. The study has followed children through age 21. The determination: these children were less likely to be held back a grade or placed in special education and were more likely to have completed high school and less likely to have been arrested for a crime as a juvenile.

On Tuesday, Governor Bob Riley announced that 27 classrooms were selected to become First Class Pre-K sites. Fifteen of the 27 classrooms, including one in Choctaw County, received $45,000 Pre-K Excellence Grants.

Choctaw County is the only one of the 13 Black Belt counties in Alabama to receive a designation. Most of the schools are in Mobile and other higher population areas with more resources.

Once again, the Black Belt — the high minority, low employment, high poverty section of Alabama — is overlooked when it comes to programs that could lift this region out of the mire.

But, then, perhaps there are not enough resources to come out of the Black Belt for certain candidates in this state.