Many thanks for The Sun's long-standing, enthusiastic support for expanding pre-K in Maryland ("The agenda for 2014," Jan. 8).

We especially appreciate The Sun's assessment that expanded access will help give our children a competitive edge and narrow the achievement gap. I would like to help address The Sun's concern about finding "a realistic way to pay for it."

One thing children practice in pre-K is creative thinking skills, and the early childhood education field has done a little creative thinking of its own. By offering pre-K not only in school buildings but also in existing high-quality settings like accredited child care centers, Maryland can greatly reduce start-up costs of pre-K expansion, including capital and professional development.

This "diverse delivery" system gives parents greater choice and, especially for children of working parents, means fewer disruptions for adults and children during the day.

In the long term, quality pre-K pays for itself. Those who attend pre-K have greater employment and higher wages as adults than children who do not have a quality education experience as 4-year-olds. Combine this with other benefits such as reduced crime and more stable families, and you have an initiative that works for everyone.

In the short term, as with most policy proposals, the funding details are worked out in budget deliberations. Ultimately, Maryland Family Network hopes to see pre-K financing incorporated into the pending re-evaluation of the Thornton Act education funding formula.

The question should not be how we pay for the expansion of pre-K in Maryland but rather how we'll pay if we don't.

Margaret E. Williams, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Family Network.

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