Yesterday, United Way of Salt Lake, along with United Way of Northern Utah and United Way of Utah County, held its annual Legislative Preview Breakfast. With 400 attendees, the agenda was packed and audience questions to this year’s panelists of Legislative Leaders were thought-provoking — lending to a great discussion about the upcoming 2014 Legislative Session.
This year’s panelists included Speaker Rebecca D. Lockhart, Senator J. Stuart Adams, Senator Gene Davis, and Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck. Legislators answered questions from the audience about key issues, many focused on UWSL’s main legislative priority this year, high-quality preschool for at-risk kids. Guests also heard a special address from Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox.
First, extending access to United Way 2-1-1, which connects people with services and is a solid social barometer for the state, providing data on the most critical needs of Utahns. The primary purpose of 2-1-1 is to empower individuals and families with information and knowledge about health and human services, as well as to connect volunteers with meaningful opportunities to serve our community.
The second, and main priority for UWSL, is extending access to high-quality preschool for at-risk kids who lack opportunity. On average, economically advantaged 3-year olds know 1,100 words, wile economically disadvantaged 3-year olds know only 500 words. This creates an achievement gap in language arts up to 29% between all kids and at-risk kids. Research has shown, that this gap continues and even grows, if a child starts kindergarten behind. At-risk kids who do not have access to high-quality preschool are also 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 60 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime, and 70 percent more likely to never attend college. With high-quality preschool, children are more likely to start school on track and stay on track, which ultimately saves the state millions of dollars in special education costs.
To learn more about high-quality preschool, visit our webiste: uw.org/Stand4PreK. Make your voice heard this legislative session and sign our pledge to #Stand4PreK and help advocate for kids!