William Turner: Why pre-kindergarten matters

This past year, the Wicomico County Board of Education, requested resources to fully fund countywide pre-kindergarten classrooms from the County Executive and County Council.

William Turner

During the meetings that followed there was discussion of the importance of pre-k education and the effects it has on children’s preparedness to come to kindergarten “ready to learn.”

The state of Maryland evaluates incoming kindergarten students through an evaluation to assess their readiness to learn. Wicomico County was far behind the state in 2017 with only 33 percent of incoming students “ready to learn.”

Our current pre-k program isn’t available to all students and it is funded only through state Education Department grants. Schools Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin requested from the County a phase-in to full funding for all students over the next two years.

Only part of that funding was granted in the 2019 budget cycle.

With only partial funding available this past year, Wicomico’s readiness score increased from 33 percent to 47 percent.

While one might think this could be a testing anomaly, state data bears out that pre-k does prepare students to learn. Only four school districts in the state are fully funded for pre-k classrooms — Baltimore City, Kent, Garrett and Somerset.

With the statewide average of ready-to-learn students averaging 45 percent, three of the four entities, with full funding, dramatically exceeded the state averages: Kent County, 62 percent; Garrett County, 61 percent; and Somerset County, 57 percent.

Faced with those kind of results, I think it’s obvious that it is time to fully fund pre-k programs in Wicomico County and give our students the best opportunity to succeed that we can.

William K. Turner of Salisbury serves as a member of the Wicomico County school board.


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