Aurea Ortiz is working to Support Early Childhood Opportunities to Help Kids Flourish

Aurea Ortiz

I came across this article that clearly indicates why early care and education opportunities matter for Children to Flourish. A lack of education during the first five years of our children lives is having a negative impact on our country's workforce. I believe each child should have every opportunity to reach full potential and experience the joy of learning. I truly believe in early childhood education. Please speak to your congressman or senator and tell them that you want early childhood education to be a reality for ALL our children. Thank you. Aurea Ortiz

October 10, 2013 8:00 am • By Julie Blum / jblum@columbustelegram.com

COLUMBUS -- A lack of education for children during the first five years of their lives is having a negative impact on the nation's work force.

That is what a group of about 40 educators and community members were told Wednesday by representatives with Nebraska’s Early Childhood Business Roundtable, a group that is stressing the importance of early education to business leaders across the state.

“This issue of the first five years is increasingly important and that if we miss an opportunity here, it’s probably a costly thing to miss,” said Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher, who attended the forum hosted by Jim Krieger, chairperson of the roundtable and chief financial officer of Gallup, at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

Krieger presented various ways the gap in early childhood education is affecting businesses, including work force productivity and development issues.

He said 93 million adults in America are functionally illiterate, and there are widespread deficiencies among high school graduates in writing, verbal and critical thinking skills needed for entry-level jobs.

“In the state of Nebraska, we hear from the state chamber of commerce about how there are potentially 30,000 jobs in Nebraska, and we don’t have the talent to fit those jobs. I would profess that that gap starts awful young,” Krieger said.

That is why, he said, early childhood education is so important. During those first few years, a child’s sensory pathways, language and cognitive functions are formed.

Public spending on education is much higher once a child turns 5, as opposed to those early years. If more of an investment was made early on, Krieger said it would pay off later by helping decrease spending on special education, grade repetition, crimes, the number of teenage parents, welfare dependency and job training costs. In return, it would increase student performance and result in higher graduation rates, work force readiness and job productivity.

Across the state, about 39 percent of the children up to age 6 are at risk of failure in school, according to the most recent census. In Platte County, 887 children or 34 percent, are at risk.

An at-risk child is defined as living in poverty, coming from a home where English is not the primary language, being born to a teen parent or having a low birth weight.

Krieger said communities need to make early childhood education part of the public conversation in the business community and with parents and develop learning opportunities for young children.

He praised some of the efforts already are being forged here, including Columbus Community Hospital’s plan to build a health and wellness center that includes child care and the establishment of an early childhood development task force.

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