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By Christine Eastman
Special to Village News 

Early education makes a better world


Last updated 9/9/2019 at 11:07am

A mother takes her son to the Head Start Child Development program as early childhood education is the key to a child's future.

Diane and Paul Garrett of Fallbrook, through their family foundation BetterWorld Trust, commissioned University of California San Diego's School of Education and NP Strategies to research what early childhood education looks like in Fallbrook.

The study is called "Early Care and Education in Rural Communities: Opportunities and Impediments to Improve Access in Fallbrook." It looks at the direct needs of a community, as voiced by licensed Fallbrook preschool and day care teachers – both center and home-based – at 16 facilities, who participated in focus groups and surveys over a three-month period this year.

Major findings include according to WalletHub's report on "2019's Best & Worst States to Have a Baby," California ranks 38th with 1 being the best and 25 being average on having enough child care centers per capita; privatized daycares and schools are under-enrolled; subsidized and partially subsidized facilities are maxed out with waiting lists due to dramatic increase in immigrant population over the last decade; need more Spanish-speaking education providers and Fallbrook's median household income went from $42,000 to $59,000 from 2000 to 2010 while the number of families living in poverty increased by over 500 families in the same period, which means a widening socioeconomic gap between upper and lower income families.

"There are approximately 4,000 children aged 0 to 5 in Fallbrook, but we see low overall enrollment in preschools here in Fallbrook," Garrett said. "We want to figure out where those kids are that aren't enrolled and see how we can help educate their parents or grandparents on the importance of early childhood education. We want to make Fallbrook a place people want to have and raise their children because we do in fact have amazing preschools and day care facilities already."

Zion Preschool and Daycare, which currently serves 60 preschool children, is in the process of increasing their school capacity to 128 by the end of September 2019, according to Preschool Director Lana Janey. In response to how Zion can help low income families who may want their children to have a private preschool experience, she said, "There is state assistance through Child Development Associates. They base the assistance on income and they will also pay for before and after school daycare if you qualify. The link to apply is"

In direct response to the study, BetterWorld Trust reached out to all the local preschools and day care centers to get their opinions on how to move forward. One of their suggestions was for BetterWorld to host quarterly professional development sessions.

The first session, held recently, was themed "How to revitalize your spirit," and was attended by 20 local early education administrators and teachers. The topics of these events are chosen by the administrators and teachers themselves and based on the chosen topics. BetterWorld hires related guest speakers and hosts the sessions.

In addition to the professional development sessions, BetterWorld also hosts quarterly meetings for the administrators and teachers to talk with each other about how collectively the early childhood education arena in Fallbrook can be improved. It's a time for participants to get together and network with each other.

Why do this? BetterWorld Trust is trying to educate the educators from a collaborative standpoint, meaning nurturing the teachers as well as the whole child academically, creatively and socially – a mantra of Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of BetterWorld Trust founders Paul Garrett's favorite philosophers, he said.

This philosophy, also a badge of many charter schools, takes the principles of early childhood education seriously, as do pediatric physicians. It's no secret that doctors and hospitals push "First 5" type ECE programs.

Scores of research has been done over the years that show the benefits of reading to unborn children, teaching them colors, numbers, the alphabet and such before kindergarten – things that don't always happen in low-income, immigrant and foster families who face a host of societal challenges as well.

These statistics are from the work of Nobel Laureate James J. Heckman, an expert in early childhood development.

The social costs of children who haven't had the benefit of early education are expensive, frustrating, time-consuming and even overwhelming to the children themselves, as well as their parents and teachers.

Most of the time, these compounded issues can be avoided with the right targeted program – which is why the BetterWorld Trust is busy at work, launching the inaugural quarterly education program.

Next up from BetterWorld will be the creation of an early education program that serves expectant mothers in Fallbrook, and University of California San Diego has committed to reevaluate BetterWorld Trust's programs each year to determine what tangible impact they are having on the town and its children.

For parents and school administrators who would like more information on BetterWorld Trust's early childhood education programs, events or facilities, contact Cari Zamora at [email protected]


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