How Early Learning Can Help Bump Medford Off the “Worst Cities” List

A recent headline naming Medford among the worst cities in which to raise a family has caused a great deal of controversy and discussion. Many factors landed Medford on that list. Some would argue the characterization is unfair (we don’t have high rates of violent crime, our graduation rates have greatly improved, the homelessness statistics are improving, etc.) while others would point to some undeniable difficulties within our city.

The article underscored a lack of preschool participation in Medford as one of the factors contributing to the city’s low rating. A recent Mail Tribune article supported that premise by highlighting the challenges the Medford School District faces as significant numbers of children start kindergarten unprepared and exhibiting extreme and concerning behaviors. Preschool and early learning opportunities can make the difference. Research shows kids who attend preschool are:

- more likely to start kindergarten ready to learn - that is, able to follow direction, interact with peers, and function in a learning environment. - more likely to stay in school year after year and thus, - more likely to graduate Children who graduate are also less likely to engage in criminal activity and more likely to achieve a higher level of health. On the flip side, kids who begin formal schooling without crucial skills frequently fall behind and struggle to catch up. Once a child drops out, the likelihood of their turning to crime increases along with their health risks.

In an ideal world, all kids would have access to preschool. When we give children the chance to engage in healthy, brain-building activities before the age of six, while encouraging social-emotional development, we ultimately put them on the path to become healthier, more successful adults.

But preschool and childcare in Oregon are costly. It’s now more expensive to enroll your toddler in full-time preschool than it is to pay in-state college tuition. Due to the real cost of delivering safe, quality childcare, most research ranks Oregon as having some of the most expensive preschool in the country. Hence the reason many public and private organizations are working together to create access to early learning programs. Many of these resources are available at low- or no-cost based on need.

Just a few of the resources available:

The Family Nurturing Center (familynurturingcenter.org/) offers a child abuse/neglect prevention/ intervention program to families with children up to 5 years old

The Family Connection (