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Roughly 113,000 Arizona kids would be eligible for universal preschool under President Biden’s 'American Families Plan'

Posted at 9:28 AM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 20:23:51-04

TEMPE, AZ — Arizona preschool advocates say they are embracing President Joe Biden's plan for "four more years of public education," pointing to research that shows preschool is the path towards achievement.

Preschool programs like the one at Wood Elementary School in Tempe are solely funded by cities, like, in this case, the City of Tempe. A spokesperson for Tempe says so far, the City of Tempe has invested roughly $8.5 million into its early learning program.

“The pre-school environment is really about getting children to be ready to learn. If we were to ask a Kinder teacher, what are the most important things you would want your entering kindergarteners to have? They are going to tell us things like... ‘learning how to play with friends, learning how to follow rules,'” says Leslie Totten, the program supervisor for Tempe Preschool, also known as Tempe PRE.

Since its inception four years ago, the Tempe Preschool Program has served nearly a thousand 3- and 4-year-olds.

“So offering universal access or access that is available to all families is really going to not only impact the children, but it’s going to impact the families. We know that our families in Tempe PRE have been able to go back to work, they have been able to increase their work hours,” adds Totten.

The impacts of early childhood education, according to experts, are not just at the elementary school level, but instead, translate to a lifetime of achievement.

“Children with access to high-quality preschool tend to be ready for Kindergarten, they tend to do better in school are more matriculate in college.”

Liz Barker-Alvarez is with First Things First Arizona, the state’s early childhood agency, focused on helping children from birth to 5 years old achieve mentally, academically, and socially.

“According to the latest there are about 113, 000 3- and 4-year-olds in Arizona whose parents have indicated their children are not in school,” says Barker-Alvarez.

That’s 113,000 Arizona children whose futures could be potentially impacted if the American Families Plan were to pass.

“Every child deserves an opportunity to be successful in life,” adds Totten.

The Tempe Preschool Program is still accepting applications. Families can apply through or directly through this link.