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Another View -- Chris Stewart and Meryl Levin: Don't Wait. Educate

October 07. 2015 8:44PM

All children deserve a strong start to life. And for many kids, that comes from a high-quality early learning programs. Without intellectual cognitive and emotional development, those early years are wasted.

The result? Studies show kids without access to quality early learning programs fall further and further behind as they move through school. They have an increased probability of behavioral issues in class. They are more likely to live in poverty or commit crimes in adulthood.

These facts hit a little too close to home for those of us who live here in the Granite State.

New Hampshire is one of only a few states in the nation — and the only state in New England — that does not have a publicly-funded preschool program. Despite the importance of the formative early years, we invest next-to-nothing in early learning opportunities for our kids.

According to BusinessNH Magazine, over the past two years the federal government has distributed “$177.5 million to the five other New England states to help them improve access to and quality of early childhood education.” New Hampshire received zero dollars because it has no programs to assist.

The demand for early learning is all the more acute here in Manchester in light of the recent flood of drug-related crime plaguing the Queen City. A growing body of scholarly research shows quality early learning programs reduce the risk of toddlers growing up and turning to criminal activity as adults. We have an obvious and immediate need for crime prevention strategies. Those strategies must work in conjunction with long-term preventive strategies such as early childhood education to ensure the future safety and security of our community.

As parents, we care about the education of our children. As a founder of New Hampshire’s first public Montessori charter school (Meryl) and a former member of the Manchester Board of School Committee, we have a passion for the education of all of Manchester’s children.

One of us is a Republican and the other a Democrat. While we might not see eye-to-eye on everything, we are both raising our children in Manchester and couldn’t agree more that Manchester families need access to high-quality early childhood education programs.

Simply put, Manchester can’t afford to wait for the politicians in Concord or Washington, D.C. We intend to act now and act locally to give our kids and our community a brighter future.

That is why we’re thrilled to partner with the Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) on a new campaign called Don’t Wait. Educate.

SCAN has already been acting in a bipartisan fashion in New Hampshire, urging presidential candidates from both parties to support early learning programs at the federal level since our first-in-the-nation primary season kicked off this spring. Now, through this campaign, we and SCAN — along with citizens of Manchester, community leaders, members of law enforcement and representatives from the business community — will encourage candidates for the Board of Alderman and the Board of School Committee to pledge to expand early childhood education opportunities for Manchester families during the 2016-2017 term.

In the coming weeks, we’ll educate voters and challenge candidates. We’ll support candidates who join our cause and educate voters about their platforms. We intend to make access to early learning a reality for every family in the Queen City. We hope you’ll join us.

Chris Stewart and Meryl Levin are co-chairs of the Don’t Wait. Educate campaign. Stewart is a former member of the Manchester Board of School Committee and Levin is a founder of Mill Falls Charter School located in Manchester.

Education Social issues Guest Commentary Manchester

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