I’ve always wondered why the United States’ educational system waits so long to intervene on behalf of students who have fallen behind in school. Across the nation, much of the real remedial work begins in eighth grade.

Shouldn’t we be starting earlier to keep students from falling behind in the first place? Remedial education is expensive and doesn’t save every child. It’s tough work to catch up a child who has been lagging for seven years or more.

Most struggling eighth graders who receive remedial intervention come from economically challenged families. Fewer than 10 percent of them graduate college. Many of their parents are dropouts themselves. Like most parents, they want a better life for their children but don’t know how to guide them. They crave guidance. Providing the proper guidance means connecting them with parents with the right messages and enough repetition to make the teaching stick.

Colleges look to high schools to produce prepared students. High schools look to middle schools. Middle schools look to elementary schools. Elementary schools look to parents.

Poverty creates problems many of us never experience. Put yourself in the economically challenged parent’s shoes: Your old car breaks down. One of your three jobs disappears. You struggle to help your kids with their homework. You don’t have time for parent’s night. Your kids are getting poor grades. Their teacher says they’re not motivated. Your oldest has to skip school to stay home to care for the sick baby.

You get the idea.

Many of these families don’t have the time or inclination to even think about college. We need to make a greater effort to get them thinking about college and career-planning beginning no later than first grade.

That’s why the third San Antonio Regional PK-12 Public Education Forum at The Witte’s Mays Family Center Tuesday will focus on early education – and it’s sold out. It was conceived by education advocate Michael Burke and Rivard Report Publisher Robert Rivard, and is powered by the best and brightest educational minds anywhere. Philanthropists and foundations will be there to tackle this and the many educational challenges facing the country.

What’s so amazing to me about Texas and my hometown, San Antonio, is that we’re not waiting for someone else to solve the problems for us. Innovation and problem-solving is happening right here and getting us closer than ever to improving lives. San Antonio is the perfect laboratory for solving the U.S.’ under-education quagmire because we understand poverty better than anyone. So many of us have lived it.

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Lionel Sosa

Lionel Sosa is CEO of Yes! Our Kids Can, a not-for-profit organization. Its mission: to disrupt generational poverty by instilling a success mindset in every family, no matter their financial circumstance.