Learning doesn't begin when a student walks into class the first day of kindergarten nor does it end when a student walks across the stage to receive a diploma at graduation. Learning is lifelong and children who don't have access to quality EARLY education can start kindergarten well behind their classmates. Where you start in life should never limit how far you can go if you work and study hard.
Research is clear: kids with access to quality early childhood education are less likely to be disruptive in school and more likely to graduate. They go on to earn more, contribute more and require far fewer government services. Early childhood education is an investment that pays economic and educational dividends.
Here in Delaware, we have an ambitious goal -- to move from 20 to 80 the percentage of low-income kids with access to quality-rated early childhood education programs. We're making the investments needed to get those results and we're moving forward with higher quality programs. Together with the legislature, we invested 22-million-dollars of state resources in early education last year. That commitment helped us secure an additional grant from the federal government's Early Learning Challenge, helping us to expand the number of programs enrolled in our voluntary "Delaware Stars-for-Early-Success" quality rating system. Simply put -- Stars rewards high-quality programs with additional resources.
Though our work is far from over, we marked progress this week. So far, we have more than doubled the programs participating in Stars and the number of programs at the highest Star Levels. We are encouraged by the number of centers committed to becoming even better and earning additional Stars. But more importantly, we are moved by the number of people across the state who have offered their help to make sure that more children get a more equitable shot at success. We want kids showing up their first day of school not only more ready to learn and develop their own potential, but more ready to grab the promise and potential of our state's public schools . as together we work on early childhood education that will keep Delaware moving forward.