My third policy wish for future presidential priority projects include a focus on education by pushing universal pre-K programs for 3 and 4 years olds, and then expanding high school curriculums to better prepare non college bound students to be employable at a living wage standard.
These changes would be in addition to making a college education more accessible and affordable to all students who plan to earn a degree.
MY CASE FOR UNIVERSAL PRE-K (PRE-KINDERGARTEN)
I have been visiting my family in Chicago, Illinois which includes my precocious 2 1/2 year old grand-daughter. I was thrilled to learn that her public school district offers 3 year old toddlers access to a pre-K education with no income prequalification as is required in some states. For 2 year old children, there are 2 half day classes per week. This was welcome news because both my grand-daughter and her Mom are so ready for her to start school.
This is something that I have been advocating for years. There have been numerous credible studies indicating that for every $1 spent on a Pre-K program for children living in poverty, that the result will be a return of $7 later. More importantly, the children from poorer backgrounds with pre-K schooling will find themselves competing on a more equal basis with children from wealthier neighborhoods. This is the one thing our society can do to give all children a real leg up on the road to success.
Why Pre-Kindergarten? (Published by Chicago Public Schools)
“The pre-K experience is critical, as it helps 3 and 4-year-old children develop the academic and life skills that will carry them into adulthood. Pre-K provides children with essential opportunities to learn and practice the social-emotional, problem-solving, and academic skills that they will use throughout their lives.”
“Our high-quality Early Childhood Programs…
- Boost academic skills
- Fuel intellectual curiosity
- Foster independence
- Instill a love of lifelong learning”
“Through common goals and high expectations, Chicago Public Schools is dedicated to building a strong foundation and igniting a lifelong passion for learning for children and their families.”
Upon receiving this information, I began to do research to find out how prevalent, the 3 year old pre-K program is around the country and I was disappointed. There are only 3 states which offer universal pre-K classes for 4 year olds, Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma. There are no states (there are areas within a state that offer this option) which have a universal pre-K curriculum for 3 year old students, and more than 1/2 of the states target pre-K classes to children from low income families.
My third policy wish regarding education would include having all 3 and 4 year olds attend pre-K schools, so one can truly claim that no child is left behind.
There is an older article which is right on point about this subject and fortunately based on my research, it is still relevant. Here are some excerpts from the 4/17/14 Atlantic article, “You May Be Surprised By The States That Support Pre-K by Brian McGill and Amy Sullivan:
“When President Obama called for universal access to pre-K programs in his 2014 State of the Union address, viewers could have been forgiven for thinking this was just another big government initiative that only a liberal could love. But in fact, a look at investments in pre-K education at the state level shows that funding is up around the country–and that some crimson red states like South Carolina and Mississippi are leading the way.”
“The Education Commission of the States analyzed state data on pre-K funding for the 2013-2014 fiscal year and found that of the 40 states that provide state-supported programs for 4-year-olds, 30 of them (plus the District of Columbia) increased their funding for these programs. And contrary to what you might expect, those increases don’t follow a particular partisan pattern.”
“That’s in part because some of the most conservative states in the country have had the hardest time budging low education scores.”
“And there’s another practical reason for conservatives to embrace pre-K education. Advocates of early childhood interventions have always made the moral argument that it’s the just thing to do in order to allow children of all backgrounds to enter school on a level playing field. But now they also lay out the cost-benefit analysis: Spend money now or spend a lot more money later. Given that poor children with lower levels of educational attainment are most likely to end up in the criminal justice system or requiring social service assistance, researchers have determined that every dollar invested in early childhood education saves a minimum of $7 later on.”“A few interesting developments in the states:
- Massachusetts doubled its investment in pre-K for the 2013-2014 fiscal year in order to reduce the waitlist of children waiting for spots in programs, a number that had reached nearly 15,000.
- South Carolina increased its funding by almost 80 percent in order to extend early childhood programs to 17 additional school districts in the state.
- Minnesota is now offering scholarships for pre-school age children whose family’s income is low enough to qualify–those scholarships for private programs are in addition to the Head Start options already available.
- New Mexico’s Republican Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill last spring (2013) that will use money from the state’s tobacco settlement to fund early childcare and education programs.”
- “It’s important to note that the programs included in this data are just those that serve 4-year-olds. Many education researchers believe that interventions should start even earlier, with school-based programs beginning at age 3. Even so, the trend lines point toward more federal and state support of early education–whether you live in a state that’s blue, red, or polka-dotted.”According to the 6/26/15 US News & World Report article, “The Building Blocks of Success” the author Sara Mead writes: “A growing number of kids are being served in state and locally funding pre-K. But ensuring that all children enter school ready to succeed will require both expanded access in many communities and improvements in pre-K quality in most. The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) publishes an annual analysis showing the extent to which average state per pupil spending falls short of the costs required to deliver quality pre-k.”
As per the most recent NIEER report, (for 2015 pre-K) “enrollment rose very modestly by 37,167 children overall. New York, Michigan, South Carolina and Alabama added large numbers of children at age 4 while Connecticut had a program newly qualify as state pre-K, and Mississippi and Hawaii joined the states funding pre-K. Other states- Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and Wisconsin- decreased enrollment significantly.”
Setting the Record Straight on State Pre-K Programs | US News Opinion http://www.usnews.com/…/setting-the-record-straight-on-state-pre-K…U.S. News & World Report Jun 26, 2015 – While some states, such as New York and Colorado, flow funding for pre–K through public school districts…
The State of Preschool 2015 – National Institute for Early Education …nieer.org research/state–preschool-2015 National Institute for Early Education/ The 2015 State of Preschool Yearbook is the newest edition of our annual report … New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.