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These are the mighty Aurora Cardinals.

The Cardinals are a pee wee, touch football team made up of 15 four-year-olds. One of them is Xavier, one of the tallest players on the team, on the left-hand side wearing number 3. Xavier is a bright, energetic young boy, and is often heard indignantly telling his mom, “I can do it myself!”  We first learned of Xavier because his mom, Elena, works with my colleague Caroline, who is the lead organizer for Colorado Fair Share. That’s how we found out about the Aurora Cardinals – and about the obstacles Xavier and many of his teammates face.

Last Spring, Elena began researching pre-kindergarten options for Xavier. To her dismay, Elena found out that even though they qualify, there would be no free Pre-K for Xavier this fall. Instead, he would be placed on a waiting list – along with 800 other Aurora four-year-olds.

Xavier wouldn’t be the first, nor would he be the last one on that waiting list. Eight of the 15 players on the Aurora Cardinals pee wee team are on the wait list, waiting for the chance to start school. Apparently, there’s room for these youngsters on the football field, but no spots in the classroom.This is a growing problem in Colorado. Of the state’s nearly 70,000 four-year-olds, fewer than one third are allowed into the Colorado Preschool Program, with thousands turned away this fall due to state budget shortfalls.

And the loss for Colorado’s kids is tragic, and goes well beyond the 15 players on the Aurora Cardinals football team. Any police chief, prosecutor, business leader, teacher or surgeon will tell you that when children participate in high-quality early learning programs in the first five years of life, they do better in school, get higher-paying jobs, rely less on social programs and contribute more to the economy. Early access to Pre-K improves health; reduces the need for special education, educational remediation and welfare; reduces high school dropout, juvenile justice and incarceration rates; and increases home ownership, employment and economic productivity.  But will the Aurora Cardinals get these advantages?

Update: We just received word that Xavier is no longer wait-listed and will, in fact, soon be in preschool. 799 kids to go...

This is not just about helping children, although for many of us, that is the most desirable outcome by itself. It’s also about making our economy stronger and our workers more capable of competing in a global system. Think of the prosperity that will flow from a strong education system if Colorado, and the U.S. as a whole, found herself ten years from now with the world’s best and strongest early childhood education programs.

Congress is considering legislation that would help give the Aurora Cardinals a brighter future. The Strong Start for America’s Children Act would dramatically expand access to early childhood education for millions of American children, including kids like Xavier.

So what can we do? A good place to start would be to tell Aurora's congressman, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, that we care about this issue and that he needs to make it a priority. Unfortunately, education does not appear to be one of Coffman’s priorities. A visit to the “Issues” section of his government-funded web site yields 15 tiny words on the entire issue of education:

“The issues pertaining to public education are best left to state and local school boards.”

The Aurora Cardinals recently ended their season on a high note, playing their hearts out all the way to the semi-final round in their playoffs. But for the players, there is a game of life that has just begun. Unless we as a country commit ourselves to making sure that every player on the team has a fair shot in life, the game could be over in the first quarter.  Let’s make sure the Aurora Cardinals get to play all four quarters on a level playing field.

Originally posted to delliot on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 02:11 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Same thing in California (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, roadbear, Pinto Pony, delliot

    I have a lovely bright little great granddaughter who qualifies for Head Start but enrollment was very limited and she was put on the waiting list.  Her father is recovering from surgery and they are living on his Work Comp payments and they get a very small amount of food stamps.  Fortunately the house is full of books and she has an older sister who works with her.  Both parents read to her  and she has play dates with other children so she is getting socialized and will be reading by next year and I believe she will be ready for first grade.

    Not every four year old has this much support and I would prefer that she was in pre-school.  One of her uncles offered to pay for a good pre-school but her parents did not want to take the money.  This same uncle (my son Eric) has a college fund for her and her mother thinks that is more important.

    I think all four year old children should be able to attend school with no income qualification.  We need to educate our children.  It is so important.

    "It's like, duh. Just when you thought there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you're wrong" Molly Ivins

    by Lefty Ladig on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 06:06:14 PM PST

  •  Wonderful picture! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pinto Pony, delliot

    I can imagine the team playing - if they're like a very young soccer team I once knew, the coach's #1 concern in a game is to make sure the kids are running in the right direction.

    Important message too. Many thanks for the diary.

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 10:54:55 PM PST

  •  As fine a looking team as I have ever seen (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    these young folks not only need to be stated in education, I would argue that they deserve it as well.  Our competitor's start the education process at those ages in countries that are even going through more austerity than our own.  This should be a national security issue as who will secure our place in the world if we do not have the minds and ability to do so in the future.  

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