PAT's jump-start

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Children who get a good start on learning at a very young age have a better chance of doing well when formal classes begin on the first day of kindergarten. Missouri's Parents As Teachers program fosters that kind of early learning, and the success of the program has become a national model. Gov. Matt Blunt would like to see PAT receive additional funding in next year's state budget.

PAT's influence begins even before a child is born. Parents-to-be are given practical advice for a healthy pregnancy. Once a child is born, parents can begin almost immediately teaching and challenging the youngster with assistance from regular visits from a PAT counselor.

The PAT program is offered through school districts. Blunt says additional funding would allow more school districts to provide the full range of services through age 5, when most youngsters would start kindergarten. The Cape Girardeau and Jackson districts already offer PAT services through age 5. The Jackson district serves 578 families, and the Cape Girardeau district serves 382 families. Annual per-family costs are in the $300 to $350 range.

Not only does PAT give youngsters a jump on learning, the program also offers screening that can detect physical and developmental needs that might require special attention.

Funding these efforts is an investment in a successful educational experience as the child grows into an adult. It is a good value, considering the long-range dividends.

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