Published: Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 --- 9:30 p.m.
It's an issue both political parties agree on. In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for Congress to invest in pre-kindergarten education.
In Wisconsin, more and more school districts are getting behind the effort.
For every student who doesn't graduate high school, studies show taxpayers will end up paying $200,000 for resources that person will become dependent on.
Area education experts say quality pre-kindergarten programs will not only help at-risk youth succeed, it'll save the community money.
First grader Savannah already has a jump-start on her classmates.
"She's excelling at her reading, she's a grade above her reading level," said mom Ashley Moncrief.
The Franklin Elementary School parent credits 4-year-old kindergarten for introducing her daughter to other kids and activities.
"I mean, I'm a single mother," Moncrief said. "At the time, I could not afford for my child to attend childcare or daycare. So the fact that she was able to get picked up, they provided transportation for her, they provided a meal for her, and that she was actually in a school program and I didn't pay anything for that, that helped me so much."
"We know locally what our data says about kids of color, kids who are coming from low-income households," said Nichelle Nichols. She overseas the education programs at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane Co.
Nichols says in Madison schools, less than half of black students have the necessary skills to be considered ready for kindergarten. Among white students, the number is around 80 percent. That achievement gap persists through high school. Nearly 90 percent of white students graduate. Just over half of their black classmates join them.
"When we have young people falling through the cracks, then our community pays the price," Nichols said.
It costs $4,000 to educate a child per year. It costs $40,000 to house a child in a juvenile detention center.
"So we need to make the investment in education and early education is a huge one," Nichols said.
"I think that we have to start thinking about our kids' futures as early on as we can," said Moncrief.
Four-year-old and five year old kindergarten registration at the Madison public schools is this coming Monday. Parents can register their kids between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. at any of the district's elementary schools.