Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education and pre-K programs embrace the crucial stages of brain development in children that when ignored, put children at risk for entering the public school system with an avoidable early learning deficit that will hamper their ability to learn and succeed in school and in life. Almost 90 percent of brain development occurs before a child is old enough to enter kindergarten, but many families cannot afford quality early education programs.

Research shows that every year too many of our children show up on the doorsteps of our schools ill-equipped to learn, unable to succeed. Why? Often, until that moment learning and “playing well with others” have not been a priority in their lives. Sometimes they’ve never seen a book; sometimes their days have been filled with TV, rather than human interaction.

Early childhood education is an investment in the future. Almost one-third of our young people do not graduate from high school; drop-outs are at risk for higher rates of incarceration, unemployment and physical and mental health problems. Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth says, “As with home building, when it comes to the development of children, it’s better to do things right the first time rather than having to make costly expenditures to correct problems later.”

The greatest challenge to providing early childhood education is the cost of quality pre-K programs. Often, parents are faced with the difficult choice of quitting school or leaving a job to care for a child due to the rising cost of care, thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty.


The Facts

  • According to Tennessee Kids Count, 11 out of 20 at-risk children who did not have a quality pre-school will not finish high school, and nine will need special education services.
  • Without intervention, at-risk children begin school 18-24 months behind their more advantaged peers, according to Tennessee Kids Count.


"The development of the unique features of speech and fine motor function occurs almost exclusively during the period from birth until three years of age as a result of the abundance of neurons (brain cells) that exist at this pivotal time; accordingly, to maximize learning opportunities, it is imperative that all children receive the highest level of attention during this narrow and irreplaceable 'window of opportunity.'"

Dr. Henry Foster

Professor Emeritus and former Dean, School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College

and Clinical Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vanderbilt University


How You Can Help

  • Invest in scholarships through The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for low-income families to send their children to quality child care centers offering early childhood education.
  • Provide books, educational games and classroom resources to preschools.
  • Support the operating budget for nonprofit preschools and Pre-K programs with two or three-star ratings.
  • Visit ChildCare Nashville to learn more about childcare options in your Middle Tennessee community.