“Why is it that our kids don’t have the same accessibility?”
A new report by Padres & Jovenes Unidos shows that there are major disparities in access to pre-schools and the quality of pre-schools for residents in South West Denver, compared to other more affluent areas of the city. “There is not enough school choice and there are huge waiting lists.”
Elsa Oliva Rocha, Co-Executive Director of Padres & Jovenes Unidos, has experienced this first hand as she struggled to enroll her 4 year old daughter in a neighboring pre-school.
“There was only one center in my neighborhood that has 4 stars according to the Denver Preschool Program. The application process is very bureaucratic, I have to show up at the right time, between 9am and 2pm, at the right place, because the center only accepts applications for two weeks (after which applications are accepted at DPS main offices), with the right form, which I could not find on the website. I need a center in my neighborhood because my sitter can’t drive. After jumping through all the hoops, I still have no idea if my daughter is enrolled or not ‐ they won’t tell me until March. I don’t have any other place she could go.”
Oliva Rocha says that South West Denver is mostly working class and Latino and has much fewer good quality early childhood education centers. She says that results in racial disparities in funding of early education.
“When you go across town to Cheesman Park or Cherry Creek, there are way more schools that are ranked high, mostly 4s and in terms of funding, when a parent decides to take their kid to a school that’s ranked 4 or 5 and they go through different programs to find money to help them pay their tuition, those parents get more money, so the higher the school is ranked the more money that is available to cover tuition.”
She says that in addition to lack of access, the quality of the programs available to Latino families in South West Denver, is much lower than in more affluent communities. She cites research that shows early childhood education can significantly improve overall education outcomes. Having disparities at pre-school she says, compounds the racial inequalities later on in education. “We have to start when we’re young and close the achievement gap at age 3.”
Padres & Jovenes Unidos is calling for more access and better quality pre-schools in South West “we need to start at the beginning and we do really need to fund from EC ( Early Childhood) up because we need to close the achievement gap and the sooner we do that the better off children of color will actually succeed high school and hopefully go on to college and graduate college.”