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Pre-K investment will pay off

7:30 AM EST, March 4, 2013

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Kudos to The Sun for supporting the Race to the Tots legislation in Annapolis and universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten ("Challenging young minds," Feb. 25).

Race to the Tots, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ferguson and Del. Sandy Rosenberg, would provide funding for expanded access to preschool, professional development for child care providers, and innovative partnership among services for young children and their families. Hearings on the legislation will be held on Wednesday, March 6, and we urge readers to contact their representatives in Annapolis, calling on them to support this bill.

We'd like to add some evidence to the debate now swirling about the push for universal access to pre-K. Several studies, including those cited by the White House to support President Barack Obama's call for universal pre-K, have been criticized for being studies of "Cadillac" programs, that is to say, programs of intensive, high-quality intervention that would be expensive and difficult to replicate on a large scale.

However, a study of participants in the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) in Chicago's Title I schools substantially dispels this concern. CPC is a government-funded and publicly administered program serving thousands of inner-city children. It spends about the same amount of money per child as Head Start.

A longitudinal study of participants in the CPC program found that it generates powerful benefits in academic achievement and earnings that stay with the participants at least until age 28 — while reducing public outlays for remedial and special education and criminal justice. For every $1 invested in the CPC program, nearly $11 is projected to return to society over the children's lifetimes.

Taxpayers couldn't ask for a better return on investment.

R. Dixon H. Harvey, Jr., Owings Mills

The writer is president of the board of Maryland Family Network.

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