Oh, those glorious days. Apple juice, snacks, naps on carpet squares. Story time.

Yes, preschool is doggone delightful. And, researchers say, it’s a vital educational building block. A child who goes to preschool starts kindergarten a step ahead.

But across San Diego County, thousands of children go without. Why? It’s not free, and not everyone can afford it. Reporter Emily Alpert sums it up succinctly:

“Preschool is a luxury for those who are rich enough to easily afford it, charity for those who are poor enough to deserve it, and a headache for those stuck in between.”

Alpert talks to some families stuck in between as they fill out stacks of of paperwork to try to enroll their children. Getting children enrolled is a bit of a jungle: Different programs have different rules and different income limits.

One program here is trying to address the problem by paying for free preschool regardless of a parent’s income. But it has limited funds, its programs only exist in some areas and only go so far in filling the gap.

How big’s that gap? Eighteen thousand children are on a preschool waiting list in the county.

That’s a lot of carpet squares.

In other news:

• If you’re tuned in to the debate over San Diego’s sales tax and financial reform ballot measure headed to voters in November, you’ll hear a lot about the Fire Department’s response times. They’ve slowed as budget cuts have hit. They may have contributed to a toddler’s death in Mira Mesa.

But the men and women in blue? Not so much. Their response times have actually gotten faster as the department has shrunk. Crime is down and police are clearing more cases. Reporter Keegan Kyle looks at whether that trend will continue if more cuts hit police.

• One down, a whole season still to go. Photographer Sam Hodgson documented the start of the Chargers’ preseason Saturday against the Chicago Bears. The home team pulled off a 25-10 win, one that unfortunately means exactly zip in the standings. But Hodgson still brought home some tight images.

Elsewhere:

• Twenty-eight thousand people have died as a result of Mexico’s drug violence. The Union-Tribune surveys experts who have different ideas on how to attack the problem. Among them? Targeting corruption, legalizing all drugs and reducing demand in the United States. The real question: How to actually do that and have an impact on a massive, interwoven societal problem that spans continents.

• Joan and Irwin Jacobs talk to the U-T about their pledge to donate some $600 million to charity. Their philanthropy in San Diego most recently benefited the downtown library, and they say they want to direct 75 percent of their efforts here. “We live here. We love living here. We want to support the city,” Joan Jacobs told the paper.

• Tough times for the state agency that’s responsible for regulating water polluters here. The U-T looks at the lack of board members on the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. (They’re the ones who’ll fine you if you violate the federal Clean Water Act.) Some businesses are having delays in getting permits, and the board has only the minimum required number of members right now. How come? The state pays volunteer board members $100 for each meeting. And in a statement on California’s economy, the governor’s spokesman tells the paper: “We’re really in a situation where every $100 counts.”

— ROB DAVIS

Rob Davis

Rob Davis was formerly a senior reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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