As Mayor of Louisville, I’ve learned that city government plays a major role in making sure that all of our city’s young people have a chance to succeed. That is why I launched the Cradle to Career Initiative that recognizes that whether you are a baby in a crib or an adult getting a new certification, you must constantly be learning if you are to succeed. Cradle to Career has four pillars: Early Childhood, K-12, 55K, Louisville’s postsecondary completion goal, and 21st Century Workforce. Our friends at the Metro United Way convene the Kindergarten Readiness Pillar in which more than 40 individuals and organizations meet regularly to discuss strategies to get our children kindergarten ready. In the past few years we have increased kindergarten readiness from 35% to 51% and we are committed to attaining our goal of 77% by 2020.
Although Louisville has incredibly exciting momentum, there are some challenges that remain. We still have families that struggle and kids that are behind the first day they show up for kindergarten. Too many kids – almost 50 percent in Louisville – arrive for their first day of kindergarten already behind. But, over and over again I hear the same thing: The number one way we can dramatically improve our youngest citizens’ life potential is with quality early childhood education.
You want to create more high tech jobs of the future and fill those jobs? Get more kids into early childhood programs.
You want to lower our crime rate and keep Louisville a safe place for our families and businesses? Make sure those early childhood programs are quality programs.
You want fewer kids dropping out and more enrolling and completing a postsecondary degree? Give parents the tools they need to help their kids on Day One.
To continue dialogue around early childhood development and kindergarten readiness in Louisville, local leaders, educators, parents and community members were invited to participate in one of 15 community conversations hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and the National League of Cities. These conversations included early childhood education, afterschool learning and postsecondary success, and explored ways that cities are working to close the achievement gap and increase student outcomes. Louisville’s community conversation was the last one in this series of events held over the last year.
Dr. Libby Doggett, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education, Dr. Tonja Rucker from the National League of Cities, and the Reverend Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education all participated in this important community dialogue. We were also thrilled to have U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan join us to provide closing remarks on the importance of partnership between the federal government and local communities in improving educational opportunities and outcomes across the pipeline, from Pre-K to college.
This community conversation was a terrific stimulus for the work we have been doing around kindergarten readiness and has re-energized us with fresh ideas on how to continue tackling early childhood education and development challenges for our youngest citizens and their families. I am grateful the USDE chose Louisville to have this important conversation, and excited for the work to come.
This post is a guest blog entry by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. More on the Cradle to Career Initiative can be found online on their website.