As readers of this column know, I believe being ready for school at five years old means having a better chance to succeed in life.  And that’s better for all of us.

Below is my recent testimony before the New York State Education Reform Commission on October 11, 2012:

The Rauch Foundation takes a pragmatic, evidence-based approach to its work. We believe in identifying what works, learning from the success of others, and investing our resources where they bring the greatest return.
I am therefore heartened by the charge given to this commission, the task of “comparing best practices” and “prioritizing spending.” Applying these lenses to education leads inescapably to the conclusion that New York State needs to increase dramatically its commitment to early pre-school education.

The Commission has heard abundant testimony over the past months about the benefits of early childhood services. This evidence is conclusive: early childhood education greatly improves outcomes long term, at the same time lowering long-term expenditures. Consequently, we believe that this is the very best investment New York State can make.

Specifically I urge the Commission to recommend:

  • Full day kindergarten for all children. The current system leaves out large numbers of the children who need it most.
  • Expanding pre-kindergarten and exempting it from the state school aid cap.
  • Expanding the QUALITYstarsNY program, to maximize the return on our investment in these programs.
  • Supporting successful in-home preventive programs such as the Parent-Child Home Program.

The Rauch Foundation makes grants of approximately $1.5M every year to improve young children’s lives on Long Island and in New York State.  We have been doing this for over twenty years and unfortunately, New York State has not been the partner we need.

We and other foundations are currently granting over $100,000 a year to expand Quality Stars in two high need communities on Long Island. We have supported the expansion of numerous Parent-Child Home Programs, and improvements in pre-kindergarten programs. However, these private investments alone will never tip the balance. It is time for New York to do more.

I urge the Commission to take an unswerving stand on behalf of evidence-based solutions.  You have heard many recommendations these past months from many constituencies but there is ample evidence of what really works.

If New York wants to be a leader we must identify the known impediments to educational achievement, and have the courage to champion solutions that—though they may not be in vogue—are what we need to get the job done.