February 27, 2008 — Robert Pianta, dean of the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, joined Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine in Richmond today at a news conference to promote pre-kindergarten initiatives in the commonwealth.
An expert in early childhood education, Pianta's research has led him to advocate for the long-term benefit of high quality programs for children before they enter kindergarten.
In his remarks, Pianta cited data that show pre-kindergarten is a valuable investment for state governments, especially when it is focused on low-income families.
According to Pianta, effective pre-kindergarten programs result in "fewer special education placements, lower likelihood of being held back in school, higher graduation rates, lower crime and unemployment rates, less reliance on welfare and higher lifetime wages," among other benefits.
Pianta said that, based on his own experiences, Virginia has a solid pre-K program. The proposal currently being considered by the state legislature would both ensure that all students eligible for pre-K are, in fact, taking advantage of these programs and that more at-risk students can be added to the program.
"Those proposals before our legislators that eliminate barriers and increase funding for the Virginia Preschool Initiative will only strengthen what we have and make it available to more children," Pianta said. "This is a sound investment and one we should make."
Pianta's remarks at the news conferences echoed the position he took in an opinion piece, "Pre-K Brings Long-Term Benefits," which was published in the Feb. 25 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
In addition to Pianta, Gov. Kaine was joined in making remarks by Christopher M. Campagna, partner and co-founder of Tartan Properties of Alexandria; Amber L. Morgan, unit coordinator and extension agent with 4-H Youth Development; and Glenn Kinard, regional president of PNC Financial Services Group Inc. of Fredericksburg.
A former special education teacher, Pianta's research focuses on investigating the effects of schooling on children's social and academic outcomes and on improving school and classroom experiences through teachers' professional development. He has been involved in developing observational assessments of classrooms and observationally based systems for professional development.