In response to a Forum article recently published titled, “North Dakota has the highest rate of young kids not in school. Does it matter?” We know that yes, it does matter.

Here’s why:

National research points to the return on investment from providing high-quality early childhood education to low-income children. Quality early experiences lead to improved kindergarten readiness, higher third-grade reading levels and increased high school graduation - therefore dramatically increasing lifetime earning potential.

Last year, United Way locally provided investments to help 459 young children access quality, pre-K programs, and 95% of those children are developmentally on-track. Whether this is in the form of quality, affordable childcare, preschool or pre-K, it matters. It matters most especially for low-income working families. One in nine families in our Cass-Clay community live at the federal poverty level ($25,750 for a family of 4).

One of the main things parents need in order to work is access to quality, affordable child care. And the reality is that over 4,200 local families in our community struggle to find and afford these opportunities. Last year, with the help of financial support from United Way, 117 children from low-income working families were able to access quality, affordable child care and 4 out of 5 of those kids are now developmentally on track to enter kindergarten. We are taking action to increase access and remove barriers to provide more quality, affordable, early childhood education in our community. The results show the investment is having a positive impact on our next generation of workforce in our community. Whether it is pre-K, preschool, or childcare-what matters is that quality, early childhood education is important for children and their working parents. And it works.