Group pushes for pre-kindergarten for all military children

To understand the importance of pre-kindergarten for children of military families, one Kansas school administrator tells the story of an anxious daughter of a deploying soldier.

Asked last fall to draw her family, only the deploying mother was pictured smiling because she was leaving, the girl explained. But at year’s end, the girl — whose newly acquired skills included writing her name — pictured herself smiling as well, said Pat Anderson, associate superintendent of the Geary County school district, which serves Fort Riley.

In a report released Wednesday, the Military Child Education Coalition and the group Pre-K Now are calling for all states to take steps to provide the program for all military children.

“If you can start our kids off right, we know from experience that they will blossom and grow,” said Thomas Schwartz, a retired Army general and board chairman for the coalition, speaking during a convention at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City.

The report praised Kansas and Texas for their efforts and called for more states to follow their leads.

In Kansas, the state began a pilot program in 2006 that provides money for Geary County and five others to offer pre-kindergarten for children of military families and youngsters deemed at-risk for reasons including poverty. The Legislature approved $3 million in 2007 to expand the program.