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A Question of Justice

Tom Holmes

Did you know that one in six children in South Dakota under the age of six years live in poverty? In many of these families, parents don’t know they should read or how to
interact with their children. These children may experience hunger, violence, and instability.

These are our most vulnerable kids. Kids of color, kids whose parents are incarcerated, kids who are homeless, kids who are born into poverty. These children begin school far behind their peers in cognitive and social skills and remain behind. They often do not graduate from high school.

Studies have demonstrated that children who are not reading proficiently by the third grade are four times less likely to graduate and thirteen times less likely to graduate from high school if they live in poverty. Conversely, these children are eight times more likely to be incarcerated and go on welfare. These are our children.

Multiple studies, including work done by the Nobel Laureate economist James J. Heckman, have shown that investing in a quality preschool program can boost IQ and increase social and emotional skills in children of poverty. These children are much more likely to graduate from high school and go on to lead fulfilling and productive lives.

South Dakota needs a state funded, voluntary preschool program to allow these children an equal opportunity to have a decent life. This is not a political issue, it is an issue of human justice.

I encourage you to contact your state senator and representatives and tell them to do what is right for our children.

Tom Holmes
Former educator
Former state representative
Current Early Learner South Dakota Stakeholder