From: Kathleen McDermott
To: Francis Gibson, Lowry Snow, Patrice Arent, Richard Cunningham, Steve Eliason, Greg Hughes, Brad Last, David Lifferth, Daniel McCay, Carol Moss, Jim Nielson, Val Peterson, Marie Poulson, Kraig Powell, Dean Sanpei, Keven John Stratton,
Subject: Please support HB 96 - Utah School Readiness Initiative
Date: Wed Feb 05 22:03:40 MST 2014

Dear Chairman Gibson and Members of the Committee,


I apologize for not writing to each of you separately, but I know you vote tomorrow, and I want to give you ample time to consider my views.  I suspect you are getting many letters and calls today.


I am a supporter of quality preschool education for all children, first, because  I have seen what benefits it provided for my two children, what wonderful benefits  it is providing right now for my three grandchildren (31/2, and twins 14 months old - yes, even at that age, as I will explain below), and I believe all children should have the same opportunity to make the most of their live, and maximize their contribution to society, as my children and grandchildren have and will have.


But I don't rely solely on the anecdotal evidence of my family and friends.  No - I support pre-school for all because it works.  We have evidence of that from the studies right here in the Salt Lake area as well as nationally.  Right here in Utah, high quality preschool (I'm not talking babysitting/daycare) has had the effect, and it has been measured, of closing the achievement gap.  Don't believe people who say that effect fades.  In Utah the results have been shown to last past 3rd grade; several waves of children have been studied.  And whereas my own kids and grandchildren were not at all economically disadvantaged, the same kind of benefits they received from preschool have been shown with poorer kids: for them those benefits were increased rates of high school graduation, higher earnings, reduced crime and reduced dependence on welfare. 


It seems obvious that the more children in a class that are ready for kindergarten and first grade, the better off everyone in the class is.  The teacher can teach "up" not "down," fewer aides are needed, and attention is not focused on a few.  That means that with every grade, everyone is getting a better and better education.  And that means a better educated workforce, one that is able to compete in a world economy.  Like it or not, our children cannot longer compete just with other Utahans.  I am so worried that we just don’t recognize that fact.  We can see our air getting filthy, and our water supplies shrinking – but it is harder to see the slow inexorable march to mediocrity that we will be doomed to unless we fix our education system for all, starting today.  And I say for all, not because I believe in taking the place of parents, but because I am a realist.  I do not want my society, or more to the point, the society my beloved grandchildren will grow up in, to be marked by crime, ignorance, and a large group of people who cannot contribute, because no one took care of their needs when they were 2, 3, 4 or 5. 

Preschool does more than prepare children for the academic world.  (And understand, at the preschool age, this “preparation” is fun!  It is fun to learn colors, and numbers, and animals, to sing songs and hear stories and play pretend, the latter being a terribly necessary element in mind development). Preschool is also the best chance many children will have to learn how to share, to control their impulses, to take turns, to have empathy for other kids, to respect feelings, to pick up toys, to cooperate…..this is not brainwashing , this is how to live. Not every parent can do all this at home. Few, indeed can.  There aren't computer-learning programs for this.   And the more children you have at home, the more jobs you must take to support your family, the more curves life throws at you...the less you can do.  And your children suffer.  And then we all do.

Here is how strongly I feel about the benefits of preschool.  When my children were born, I had a good job. I could afford a wonderful college-educated nanny who came to our house every day and doted on my children, and read to them as I did, and taught them crafts, and played games and entertained their friends.  I STILL enrolled my children in preschool starting at age 2. (Almost all of my friends did the same thing, and those that didn’t noticed that their kids had some or a lot of catching up to do at kindergarten time.) The nanny and I and my husband all took turns at the required “helping” days at the school.  Our nanny was there before, during and after the school day (you don’t get a quality nanny if you do give her full time pay) and she, and then after work we, were there.  My children were more than ready for kindergarten at 5. My children did well all through high school and selective universities and graduate schools.  Now my three grandchildren are in a very high quality preschool.  Yes, I would call it preschool even at the age of the 14 month-olds….they are getting talked to all day long, read books to all day long, developing language skills faster than I thought possible, learning to share, and making friends.  Their teachers convey lovely little “lessons” (with a lesson plan!) in art, science, motor skills, language, religion (it happens to be a church based school) and “math” at a perfect toddler level.   

Here is another example of how strongly I feel: I would gladly pay higher taxes to support quality preschool for all children.  I realize HB 96 has competitive grant funding and is targeted at at-risk children and that is a good start.  Please support it. 

And thank you so much for your time and attention.

Kathleen McDermott Murray

29 E. Churchill Drive
Salt Lake City, Utah 84103