The Pre-K Priority Releases Equity Report and Expands Community Conversation Series

Community Coalition Aims for Expanded Access to Pre-K for all Four-Year-Olds in Forsyth County

WINSTON-SALEM, NC (September 15, 2020) – Although school hallways may be the quiet, there’s growing noise in our community calling for greater equity in the delivery of Pre-K – 12 education. Since 2014, The Pre-K Priority has been a powerful voice for ensuring our youngest learners are included in those efforts and recently released its Equity Report outlining the stark challenges facing Pre-K children and their families.

The Pre-K Priority Equity Report: Attaining Educational Equity in Forsyth County Through High-Quality Pre-K

The Pre-K Priority Equity Report emphasizes the current achievement gap between children of color and their white peers. Research shows that high-quality Pre-K significantly reduces or even closes gaps in math and reading.

  • 61% of Non-Hispanic, White children entering kindergarten in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools are likely to do well in reading in later grades, compared to 47% of African American children and 28% of Hispanic children. Source: Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
  • Enrolling in high-quality Pre-K can reduce the achievement gap at kindergarten entry in math by an estimated 45% for African American children and by 78% for Hispanic children, and essentially closes the entire gap in reading for both African American and Hispanic children. Source: The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University

“The facts presented in our Equity Report are clear – lack of equity in access to Pre-K for children of color means they are starting their educational journeys at a distinct and, too often, a lasting disadvantage,” said Bob Feikema, CEO of Family Services and the convener of The Pre-K Priority. “If our community wants to see equity in education, then we must begin by investing in making Pre-K accessible to every four-year-old. Pre-K needs to be part of our community conversation.”

Additionally, The Pre-K Priority Equity Report looks at factors that limit the availability of high-quality, affordable Pre-K in our community.

  • Significantly lower market rates for childcare providers in Forsyth County compared to other counties across North Carolina translate to a shrinking landscape of childcare resources for families. Source: Family Services of Forsyth County
  • Only 27% of eligible children in Forsyth County are enrolled in NC Pre-K which is significantly lower than other counties including Guilford which has 67% of its eligible children enrolled in NC Pre-K. Source: Family Services of Forsyth County

“The energy around equity in our community is exciting and greatly needed,” said Shenell Thompson, Senior Program Officer at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “Our mission is to ensure that Pre-K is recognized as an important piece of the equity conversation. We know from national, state and local studies and as well as conversations with teachers, principals and other leaders here in Forsyth County that children who don’t have access to high-quality Pre-K too often never to catch up – not in school, not in economic mobility, not in life.”

The Pre-K Priority Community Conversation Series Expands for Fall 2020

Members of the Pre-K Priority along with state and local community leaders will serve as panelists for an expanded series of webinars this fall around key topics related to Pre-K such as Equity, Quality, Forsyth County Statistics and the Economy. Confirmed panelists include Kellie Easton, Executive Director of Action4Equity;       Dr. Ebonyse Mead, President of the Educational Equity Institute; Shenell Thompson, Senior Program Officer at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust; Bob Feikema, CEO of Family Services; Katura Jackson, Executive Director of the Child Care Resource Center; Louis Finney, CEO at Smart Start of Forsyth County, and Carla Garrett from the Office of Early Learning in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

The Pre-K Priority’s webinar focused on Pre-K and Educational Equity is scheduled for Sept. 22 from 5 to 6 p.m. Panelists for this webinar are Kellie Easton, Dr. Ebonyse Mead and Bob Feikema. Shenell Thompson will moderate the conversation.

All of the webinars are open to the public with links available from The Pre-K Priority’s website, and on The Pre-K Priority Facebook page.

“Addressing equity in education takes a multi-level system change approach,” said Dr. Mead. “Within this approach, higher education has a responsibility to prepare teacher candidates to be culturally responsive and equity minded. Preparing the education workforce requires teacher education programs to prioritize social justice in education.”

Later in September, The Pre-K Priority will host a webinar on the benefits of high-quality Pre-K that will include panelists Louis Finney, CEO of Smart Start of Forsyth County and Carla Garrett of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. A final webinar is planned for October around Pre-K and the Economy. The Pre-K Priority previously hosted a webinar on Sept. 10 with Katura Jackson from the Child Care Resource Center and Bob Feikema from Family Services, as a community update of its work.

“Our hope is that by hosting conversations around the issues and disparities with Pre-K in Forsyth County, we’ll see more of our community and political leaders including Pre-K in their discussions around educational equity,” said Feikema. “Now is the time to take stock of how we are investing in not just the futures of our children but in the future of our community.”