San Juan Region
Early Childhood Education: Investing in the Future
In the San Juan region and throughout the state of Colorado, there are many valuable causes, but limited resources through which to support them. This presents the San Juan Regional Council with the question of how best to distribute the finite resources at their disposal. As with all Councils, San Juan Council members want to have the greatest impact with the grants they recommend.
Demographic information provided by the Colorado Children’s Campaign through their annual Kids Count data demonstrates the challenges children face in the San Juan region. In the region, only 57% of three and four year olds are enrolled in pre-school. In Delta County alone, this percentage is only 38% and 30% of fourth graders are not proficient in reading. Economic challenges have meant that Delta County (23.5%); Gunnison County (18.9%); Hinsdale County (22.9%); Montrose County (25.0%) and Ouray County (18.8%) are home to a higher percentage of children in poverty than the statewide average of 18.1%.
Studies have shown that investing in early childhood education (ECE) and development does, in fact, bring significant positive returns over time. Children who benefit from ECE programs show higher cognitive ability than those who aren’t enrolled in ECE programs, beginning at toddler age and extending all the way through college. Children who participate in ECE programs are less likely to repeat grades, require special education, or get into future trouble in the legal system. Similarly, these children are more likely to attend a four year college and earn more over a lifetime. Because of the early intervention these children receive, long term health outcomes are improved.
Given the resounding evidence in favor of early childhood education, the San Juan Council has chosen to direct grants towards two distinct programs that focus on early childhood development. One, Parents as Teachers, trains “parent educators” to perform home visitations where they coach parents and help them gain the skills needed to aid their child’s educational and developmental growth. The second program, the Pyramid Model, helps address social and emotional development through targeted intervention in schools. In this program, teachers are coached by Pyramid Model trainers on various activities and phrases they can use to help students learn how to respond to situations in an appropriate way. Both programs are derived from an evidence-based approach to help drive outcomes.
Overall, the San Juan Council has decided that investing in the educational and behavioral development of children beginning at an early age will provide the greatest returns to the region over time.
Regional Council Members
Vice Chairman, El Pomar Foundation
Colorado State Representative, House District 58
Retired County Commissioner, Gunnison County
Western Slope Outreach Manager, Connect for Health Colorado