David Johns ’04 – Featured in The Washington Post

David Johns '04 IRAAS

David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, holds infant Braylen Pyles during a tour of the Sunshine Early Learning Center in Southeast D.C. on Jan. 14, 2016. (Moriah Balingit/The Washington Post)

Singing, dancing and reading, a White House staffer makes the case for early childhood education   January 21, 2016 

His tour last week of the Sunshine Early Learning Center was intended to highlight the center’s work, where certified preschool teachers — many of them parents of students and former students — use research-based methods to get children up to speed. And it also was meant to underscore the importance of early childhood education in closing the achievement gap. The tour came two days after President Obama called for “pre-K for all children” in his State of the Union address.

[The transcript of President Obama’s final State of the Union: What he said, and what it meant]

Johns believes that education should start at birth, not when a child enters a kindergarten classroom. But school systems are rarely set up to provide schooling before then, lacking funding, infrastructure and know-how. And the children who would benefit most from high-quality early childhood education — those who come from low-income households and families who speak little English — often cannot afford it.

“The work and the goal of this administration is to really think about it as a system that begins at birth,” Johns said.

D.C. is ahead of the curve, providing taxpayer-funded preschool for many of the city’s 3- and 4-year-old children. Sunshine Early Learning Center is funded in part through that program and also through childcare subsidies that low-income families receive from the District. More than 325 families send their children to the center, which cares for and educates children from infancy to pre-kindergarten.

Parents who send their children to the center said that it’s made a difference and that it will help ensure their children will be successful in elementary school.

Sequita Bannister, whose 20-month-old daughter Jade Haye attends the school, said she’s been amazed to see how quickly her daughter’s vocabulary grow since the girl started attending last September. She sings “good morning,” and can count to 10.

“She says different words every day,” Bannister said. The 26-year-old mother, who works for the U.S. Postal Service, said she believes preschool is now an essential part of a child’s education. She believes that without it, there is no way Jade would be ready for kindergarten when the time comes.

Frances Rollins, the center’s chief operations officer, said she runs a tight ship and stretches its meager publicly funded budget. But with more resources, she said she could serve more families and hire more experienced teachers.

Copyright: The Washington Post