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To the Editor:

I want to thank Elizabeth T. Powers for her Opinion piece (“Will lowering the age requirement for kindergarten help kids?”, May 9). She thoughtfully examines what it would mean to have children start kindergarten sooner.

However, in Williamson County, only about 1 in 3 children are prepared for kindergarten, according to a recently released report. Children’s learning begins before they step foot into kindergarten, and is best strengthened through high-quality early childhood programs and positive interactions at home. I am concerned that many of our youth today fall behind early on and never catch up.

This has critical implications as the Department of Defense estimates that 70 percent of Illinois youth ages 17 to 24 do not qualify for the military. They are either too poorly educated, physically unfit, or have a criminal or drug abuse record that disqualifies them from the military. We need to address this looming shortage of qualified recruits problem early on.

High-quality early education can help address this shortage by boosting high school graduation rates, building healthy habits, and dramatically reducing later criminal involvement. Early learning opens the doors to college, careers and military service if they choose to serve.

I am proud of my more than three decades of military service and to have been only the third woman in history to reach the rank of vice admiral. Increasing our investment in early childhood programs this year in Springfield will help more of our young people to follow their dreams and reach similar success.

Vice Admiral Nancy Brown

US Navy

Pittsburg

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