Santa Clarita Mayor Laurie Ender – a mother of three children ages 13, 17 and 19 – visited a classroom at the Newhall District State Preschool to support early education and celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve read Dr. Seuss,” said Ender.
She clearly hasn’t lost her touch as she gamely sat down before the well behaved children, opened the book so the children could see the pictures and began to read. At the conclusion of the book, she asked the youngsters if they had any questions.
One boy raised his hand and when called upon informed that mayor that he had Hot Wheels cars. Others told her their birthday was today too.
The day wasn’t just about Dr. Seuss as staff of the Los Angeles Universal Preschool program looked on. Ender took the time to show her support for preschool education and emphasized the benefits.
“A lot of it is the social skills that they learn – how to cooperate, how to work in a group, following directions in a group,” Ender said.
Probably not bad skills to have as a member of the Santa Clarita City Council either.
One of the onlookers was LAUP CEO Dr. Celia Ayala who has been an educator for 38 years as a kindergarten and 3rd teacher and then as principal. She says it’s essential to have preschool programs that help children develop the readiness skills (social, emotional and cognitive development) to enter Kindergarten.
“When they start kindergarten behind, that achievement gap starts right there. As so that just grows bigger and bigger,” said Ayala.
If children are ready for kindergarten they will thrive, Ayala says. If not, those same children are more likely to become a source of social problems later on.
“There is a higher absenteeism rate, higher dropout rate, higher teen pregnancy rate for children who are not successful once they get beyond third grade and are not reading proficiency level,” Ayala said.
Alaya says that even though it’s becoming common knowledge that the first five years of a child’s life are critical for learning, there have been attacks on preschool funding. The majority of the funding for LAUP comes from First 5 Los Angeles which is part of the Prop. 10 tobacco tax passed in 1998.
The most recent threat came last year when Sacramento tried to take money that had been not been committed by the First 5 commissions throughout the state. Those funds were going to be redistributed for general purposes.
“The First 5 Commission, several of them, filed a suit. There has been a judgment. A judge in a court in Fresno said basically these dollars cannot be given to other than the purpose they were originally voted for by the voters,” said Ayala.
LAUP funding will run out in 2016. This will impact four programs in the Santa Clarita Valley (Mountain View, Newhall District State Preschool, SCV Fun for Fours, and Canyon Springs) as well as 321 other preschools in Los Angeles County.
On this day, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Mayor Ender wanted to spend time with preschoolers and lend her support to LAUP.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity for our children, for our community to have this program here. And just the outreach to kids at this age is critical because it’s really when they develop their learning habits and get engaged in school and learn, hopefully, to love learning,” said Ender.
Staff from KHTS AM 1220 – co-owners Jeri Serratti-Goldman and Carl Goldman, News Director Carol Rock and Station Manager Kyle Jellings – also participated in the Dr. Seuss birthday celebration and read-a-thon by reading to children at Fair Oaks Elementary, Wiley Canyon Elementary and Sulphur Springs Elementary.