A recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation has indicated that half of Hoosier kids 8 and under are living in poverty, presenting dramatic challenges for kids in developing appropriate skills for success. According to Dianna Wallace of the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children, Indiana has a lot of room for improvement, but the state is starting to focus on the needs of young children. She said Indiana’s new Early Learning Advisory Committee held its inaugural meeting last month.
“The Early Learning Advisory Committee was formed to take a look at and do exactly what the report said – to focus on the integrated, comprehensive system of services that meets the needs of children from birth to age 8,” said Wallace.
The report indicates most young children across the nation are not on track cognitively and are behind in social and emotional growth, concluding that low-income parents need more held to ensure their children are able to access quality services and education.
Wallace said Indiana needs to be proactive for not only the children’s sake but for the future of the state.
“We know that investing the first 8 years is critical for children to succeed both in school and later on in life, and the longer we in Indiana wait to support young children and their families, the more costly and difficult it becomes to make up for those early setbacks,” Wallace said.
Wallce said that while there are signs of progress, such as the Legislature’s approval of all-day kindergarten, there are still schools that have not yet adopted it.
“Now we’re not there, but we really made tremendous strides,” Wallace said. “And so two years ago we actually supported full-day kindergarten funding in the school funding formula, and so we’ve got to now make sure that that’s available in all the school corporations across the state.”