This week, Arizona 360 took a deeper dive with a journalists' roundtable into some of the headlines that shaped May. Green Valley News/Sahuarita Sun editor Dan Shearer, Arizona Daily Star editorial page editor Sarah Garrecht Gassen and Tucson Local Media executive editor Jim Nintzel joined Lorraine Rivera to discuss the most recent legislative session and recent issues taken up by the Pima County Board of Supervisors. The conversation also focused on an ongoing push by early childhood development advocates for the county to adopt the Pima County Preschool Investment Program, a scholarship program that would allow low-income families to send their children to a quality preschool.
Proponents of the Pima County Preschool Investment Program want the county to set aside $5 million in initial funding. It's unclear whether the county will agree to the plan. While Supervisor Richard Elías is a vocal supporter of the PCPIP, he explained some of the concerns he's heard from his colleagues in the county.
"Traditionally to this point, investing in quality preschool for children is not a business line that the Pima County government has been involved in. So, it's branching out into something that's new," Elías said. "We have the money right now to do this. Now is the time to start because this is not a short-term deal. This is something we need to work on collectively as a community."
Arizona 360 got a firsthand look at early childhood education and how it has evolved over the years with a visit to Casa de los Niños's newly opened Kelly Early Education Center. Currently, a hundred children are enrolled and there's room to grow. Lorraine Rivera spoke to two instructors at the facility about their approach to educating young minds.
"Before it was just entertaining them and keeping them busy. Now it's actually teaching them emotional, cognitive manners," Phyllis Zapor said. She and her colleague, Andrea Padilla, have 44 years of experience combined.
"Children can always learn through play. And that's how we set up a lot of our centers. They think they're playing, they're having a good time, but there's a purpose behind the activity. Whether it's language skills or problem solving, they're actually working," Padilla said.
Casa de los Niños early education director Mica LaBellarte joined Rivera in studio to discuss how the nonprofit has expanded its services to continue meeting the needs of the community.
"A lot of the programs now are providing in-home support and there's less need for children to be in a group home situation. By launching the early education center, we're not only serving the children in that center, we're serving the whole family," LaBellarte said.