To the Editor:
Thank you for your coverage of the recent University of California, Berkeley, study showing a nationwide decrease in Latino preschool enrollment and your thoughtful discussion of possible reasons for this unfortunate trend (“Study Finds a Drop in Percentage of Latinos in Preschools,” April 20, 2011).
The fact that the supply of preschool slots for Latinos is declining while the population is increasing is particularly troubling here in California, where Latino children represent more than half of all children under age 5. Although preschool enrollment is decreasing among Latinos due to factors such as lack of available preschool spaces and an increase in parental unemployment, a 2010 California poll shows that Latino families still highly value preschool. The poll shows that 83 percent of California’s Latino voters think it is very important that preschool-age children attend preschool. Additionally, an overwhelming majority believe that children who attend preschool have an advantage over those who do not attend. The poll supports the idea that the decline in enrollment is due to lack of access to, not lack of interest in, early-learning programs.
We know that high-quality early-learning programs build important social skills, support language development, and lay the foundation for success in school. In order to reverse the declining enrollment trend and help narrow the already wide achievement gap, California’s Latino children need to gain and maintain equal access to these high-quality programs.
A version of this article appeared in the May 11, 2011 edition of Education Week as Latino Children Need Equal Access to Preschool