All boys and girls deserve an equal opportunity to succeed. That starts with a good education, which helps children avoid crime and teen pregnancy, and improves graduation rates. However, two out of five children in the U.S. are not enrolled in a preschool program, often causing them to fall behind their peers. Many never catch up.
By investing in early learning and after-school programs, we can greatly increase a young person's chance for future success. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers are critical after-school programs for high-poverty schools -- providing a safe place for kids to go after classes end. Despite the proven results of these learning centers, the recent federal budget proposal would eliminate this vital program. Eliminating the program would mean 1.6 million kids across America wouldn't have a safe place to go after school. We cannot let this happen.
There is a growing body of research that is helping to identify risk factors and the students who are likely to drop out. Just as early education is one of the best prevention strategies, after-school programs are a proven intervention strategy to address risk factors and provide the necessary support to students who are struggling.
Our nation must make the investment at the front end if we are going to give our children a strong start in life. Now is the time to support robust funding for quality early childhood education and critical after-school programs, including fully funding the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Congress must make children a priority and protect funding for education.
Mark K. Shriver, President
Save the Children Action Network
Mimi LeClair, President and CEO
Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago