OTHER OPINION: So, when do pre-K kids get full measure?

By The Nashville Tennessean

For too long, Tennessee children have lagged behind schoolkids in other states, and American children have lagged behind those in other developed countries in key areas of learning, including math and science.
We often hear from political leaders that it’s time for reforms that will improve educational attainment in Tennessee.
So, why does the concept of pre-kindergarten get the short end of the stick despite being a pretty basic concept? Why not get kids engaged and accustomed to classroom environments at age 4 instead of waiting until 5? Those early childhood years are a fertile time for brain development. Several studies going back decades suggest benefits result from this earlier start.
But in Tennessee and several states around the U.S., there’s resistance.
Critics want conclusive, definitive evidence that pre-K helps kids to excel later. If only they were as demanding of educational reforms that have been launched on a wing and a prayer.
However, let’s concede that pre-kindergarten is not fully realized. A Vanderbilt University study of pre-K programs is a work in progress. The study’s two years of findings suggest that students who go through pre-K learn about 40 percent more than peers who do not.
Too many of the decision-makers in Tennessee government couldn’t care less about the majority of children in this state, not to mention their parents.
Yes, the state of Tennessee has a pre-kindergarten program, with only 18,000 mostly poor and at-risk kids.
Some lawmakers worry about wasting money on children, while experts in education such as Camilla Benbow at Vanderbilt worry about wasting kids’ lives.
Instead of treating at-risk children as a social experiment, Tennessee officials should adopt a sense of urgency about developing the minds of today’s 4-year-olds statewide.