By DAPHNE ANNEET


I'm a "real world" mom. Like other parents, I work hard every day to provide the best for my two young daughters and make decisions that I hope will provide them with the best chance to be responsible, productive and caring adults.

Without question, one of the most important and rewarding choices my husband and I made was to send our daughters to a quality preschool before entering kindergarten.

This fall, my 4-year-old daughter, Camille, headed off to her second year of preschool. She couldn't wait to see her friends again, talk to her teacher and participate in hands-on activities that make school fun. I'm pleased to know that she will be taking part in creative play that helps develop motor skills, increase hand-eye coordination and reinforce premath lessons.

We've seen how preschool exposes Camille to a language-rich environment that increases her cognitive development and instills in her a love of learning. Most important, she has the opportunity to interact with, and learn from, children reflecting the diversity of this great city through her small but diverse preschool community. The life lessons Camille is learning now builds her confidence, and will undoubtedly prepare her for the increased academic and social demands she will encounter in today's kindergarten classroom.

According to a 2008 Rand Corp. study, high-quality preschool helps close the achievement gap by addressing the school-readiness gap, better preparing our youngest children to be successful in school and life. The study also found that children who start out behind in kindergarten stay behind in elementary school, never being able to catch up with their peers.

Perhaps one of the more sobering findings of the study is that the children from economically disadvantaged families who could benefit most from preschool are least likely to have access to it. As someone who can provide quality preschool education for my daughters and who knows first-hand the benefits that preschool provides for children, that finding is the most troubling to me.

As a business owner, I also am keenly aware that investing in and supporting quality preschool is a wise, far-sighted business decision. Students who attend quality preschools start out with a stronger footing and are less likely to become involved in crime and more likely to have successful, high-paying and lasting careers.

The social benefits of quality preschool add up. A second Rand study found that each dollar spent making preschool available to all California 4-year-olds would generate $2 to $4 in return. And the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has reported that investment in quality preschool yields a return of 16 percent 12 percent of that to the public and 4 percent to the child in increased after-tax earnings and benefits.

I see an even more immediate benefit, especially when I observe the strong learning foundation and leadership skills my daughter and her friends are developing. Repeated studies have shown that the academic and life skills established in preschool raise student performance, graduation rates and college attendance. These skills lay the necessary groundwork for our preschoolers of today to become the expertly trained, high-quality workforce that Los Angeles and California businesses demand. And our need for highly educated workers only will increase as technology advances and our economy strives to remain a global leader.

We cannot afford to wait to begin providing quality preschool in California, beginning with those who need it most. Two smart pieces of legislation the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in September are a good start. One bill will create a framework to improve the quality of preschool programs. The other will consolidate the state funding for programs that serve preschool age children and streamline their administration to make them more efficient and effective.

Both will be good for our children and our state's future economic growth and stability.

Every time I look at Camille, I am reminded of how fortunate she is because of the opportunities for social and academic learning provided by her preschool education. I am also painfully aware that children from economically disadvantaged families are not as "lucky" as Camille. We can't leave the educational fortunes of our children and the economic future of our state to just chance. Quality preschool is one valuable and proven way to safeguard and strengthen both.

Daphne Anneet is a partner with the Los Angeles law firm of Burke Williams and Sorensen and is the president-elect of the National Association of Women Business Owners-Los Angeles.

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