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Universal preschool to potentially benefit kids, taxpayers

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AMARILLO - Critics say universal preschool would just add to the national debt but local early education experts say that is not necessarily the case.

President Obama laid out his plan for universal preschool today in Georgia, but the excitement of the possibility spread here to the panhandle.

"It saves money as a taxpayer, it saves anxiety of a child," Early Childhood Development and Education Department Chair for Amarillo College Mary Clare Munger said.

Munger says in Texas spending one dollar on a child when they're fours years old can save three dollars in the future.

"It's just really difficult the older a child gets to catch them up and that's where we've typically spent a lot of money, at the high schools, summer programs, alternative campuses," Munger said.

President Obama highlighted statistics during the State of the Union address that indicate just how much difference a preschool education can make.

"Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime," Obama said.

The director of the Amarillo Montessori Academy Lee Ann Shaw agrees. She says no educator can deny that this would be an investment in America's youth.

"The kids that have been here from infancy all the way until they finish their kindergarten year are ready to start first grade, they're advanced, they're far beyond their peers as far as learning abilities," Shaw said.

It's unclear whether this plan would boost business at Amarillo Montessori Academy since it's a private school, but it could help create education jobs. That and the potential long-term savings are a plus, but the biggest benefit...

"It really helps shape a child's identity and potential success in the future," Munger said.

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