An Unlevel Playing Field: Urgent Needs of Preschoolers in Poverty

An Unlevel Playing Field:
Urgent Needs of
Preschoolers in Poverty

With a nearly 20% poverty rate among Arizona children, families often rely on their local public school in ways beyond providing a quality education. As a result, teachers must ensure basic needs such as nutrition and safety are met before focusing on academics. Preschoolers and early childhood education are today’s focus. Read our 8-part series to learn how teachers are managing as first responders to child poverty and why increased education funding is necessary to meet this crisis. Read our last piece titled Rural Public Schools are a Lifeline From Poverty.

Audra Damron, Contributing Writer
National Board Certified Teacher
Preschool Teacher at Desert Oasis Elementary, Phoenix, AZ
Audra Damron - Urgent Needs of Preschoolers in Poverty

In early childhood, the effects of poverty are often subtle. Wearing an outfit two days in a row. Asking for seconds or thirds at breakfast or lunch. As a preschool teacher in an income based program, I have seen various ranges of “childhood poverty” during my years teaching.

Preschool provides kindergarten readiness and skills to communicate trauma

Some families are making ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck but getting by. For these families, getting their student into a high quality preschool program is an opportunity for them to succeed academically, interact with peers and gain kindergarten readiness skills such as language building and increasing attention span. Then there are families who are really struggling, for one reason or another, and when these students enter into our program, preschool becomes a safe haven, a comfortable place for them to have one or two meals a day, to rest when they are tired in our cozy area, and learn how to communicate the trauma they have experienced throughout the few short years they have been alive.

“Then there are families who are really struggling, for one reason or another, and when these students enter into our program, preschool becomes a safe haven, a comfortable place for them to have one or two meals a day, to rest when they are tired in our cozy area, and learn how to communicate the trauma they have experienced throughout the few short years they have been alive.“

Teachers: An Unlevel Playing Field: Urgent Needs of Preschoolers in Poverty

When people ask, “Why invest in early childhood education?,” I say, “How can we not?”

Early childhood educators impact generations of students beginning with preschoolers

Both sets of needs are equally critical and make my job as an early childhood educator invaluable. When people ask, “Why invest in early childhood education?,” I say, “How can we not?” Research shows that accessibility to preschool impacts students for generations and sets them on a path towards success. Yet, currently, only 16% of Arizona’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in publicly-funded preschool. It is time to make an investment in Arizona’s future, our earliest learners, and increase these numbers. Arizona’s children deserve a solid foundation through high quality early childhood education.

These stories were collected by Save Our Schools Arizona and printed previously as part of a project series with AZ Central. All stories are true, but names of students have been changed to protect privacy.

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