When speaking on education during the campaign, Barack Obama would often mention, “These Kids Syndrome” – the idea that we are responsible for ensuring the success of our own children, but that those other kids, often academically at-risk kids, are someone else’s problem.

It is well known our state senator, Don Harmon, is close to President Obama, but this closeness extends beyond the personal to a shared concern for all our children and our collective future. Don is the devoted father of three young children and understands how valuable access to early childhood learning programs is. He is able to ensure that his children receive a high-quality education, but he does not draw a line between his own children, or the children of our community, and others.

Sen. Harmon has been a strong advocate for the expansion of funding for and access to high-quality early childhood learning programs for children of all backgrounds and income levels, and was instrumental in passing the bill that created the Illinois Early Learning Council, whose recommendations led to the Preschool for All Program, which has greatly increased access to preschool for children in Illinois.

I work with academically at-risk students at Oak Park-River Forest High School, and on a daily basis I see the effects of the achievement gap. While steps must be taken at all levels to address this gap, which begins early and grows, I applaud Sen. Harmon for recognizing how critical it is that every child gets off to a good start. Early childhood education instills not just knowledge of basic facts, but it teaches kids how to learn.

Students who are prepared in kindergarten are ready to succeed throughout their academic careers and just as importantly, this early exposure builds in kids a positive association with school and a confidence in their own abilities that will pay dividends for them, and for all of us in the future.

Jim O’Malley
Oak Park

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