Expanded pre-K will help Maryland's children [Letter]

Columnist Dan Rodricks rightly asks what all the celebrating is about regarding the accomplishments of the 2014 Maryland General Assembly ("Underwhelmed by the Md. legislature," April 9). He also calls the $4.3 million allocated this year for expanded pre-kindergarten education in our state "paltry."

I agree that it is too soon to celebrate. Instead, the confetti will fall for the estimated 1,600 4-year-olds who will benefit from pre-K expansion when they graduate from high school — an accomplishment they are far more likely to achieve thanks to this legislation.

They will celebrate again when they are employed full-time as adults. And there'll be another party when their own children graduate from high school and perhaps college. All of these milestones are many times more likely because they now have access to high-quality early learning opportunities.

Do we wish there were more money available to serve even more children? We sure do. But there are significant advantages to expanding gradually while allowing quality and capacity to catch up with our aspirations — something other states have learned the hard way.

Pre-K expansion is a significant achievement that will help a lot of Maryland families. It is also a big step toward pre-K financing being incorporated into the pending re-evaluation of the Thornton Act education funding formula.

A celebration is in order for organizations like the Maryland Family Network and our partners, who have worked hard year after year to help make sure children in Maryland have a better chance at success.

We'd have that party now, but we are too busy planning for next year's session. There is still a lot of work to be done.

Margaret E. Williams, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Family Network.

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