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November 12, 2005

Preschool For All!

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Ezra has called for more progressive policy ideas, and one that I'd really like to see more discussion of is making publicly funded preschool available to all kids. The most obvious good thing about this is its potential as an educational improvement. The years before kids go into kindergarten are good times for them to learn all sorts of things, and it'd be nice to offer them an environment that will help with learning. If you're worried about inner-city highschool students being unable to do basic math, you might want to help them learn more at the beginning so the whole process of education can move forward. While going to college is in some part a positional good, going to preschool is an absolute good.

Free preschool will also help parents "combine work and family and not go crazy," in Garance Franke-Ruta's memorable phrase, as it'll provide much-needed child care for working families. I also like it as an FDR-style public works program -- it creates preschool teaching jobs while doing useful stuff for the country.

November 12, 2005 in Education | Permalink


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» College for All! from Minipundit
In response to Ezra's request for bolder Democratic ideas, Neil the Ethical Werewolf has called for universal preschool. I'd go one step further, and propose free college. Here's why: There are the obvious reasons: a bachelor's degree increases one's a... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 13, 2005 7:48:52 PM


One problem with the preschool for all idea is that it feeds into the "government is better for kids than parents are" meme.

Personally I like the Howard Dean style "success by six" idea, both because it's less resource intensive, focuses energy where it's needed most (on the children of poor and lower middle-class mothers), and is more "empowering". Taking such a program national would be more than small bore.

Likewise, taking some mentoring program for kids age 8-15 national would also be very cool.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Nov 12, 2005 5:20:00 PM

That would mean a far wider audience for Bush to read My Pet Goat to.

Posted by: Blake | Nov 12, 2005 5:20:07 PM

If you're worried about inner-city highschool students being unable to do basic math...

...then we ought to revisit the policies that ensure every child's education is only worth as much as their parents can pay for it, e.g. funding education through property taxes.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Nov 12, 2005 5:23:34 PM

Nick, I was unaware of the whole "success by six" thing. (We had something called Smart Start in North Carolina that Governor Hunt pushed, and people liked it.) I don't see any reason to be against vouchers for the funding here, since it's not like there's an existing public preschool system that would get defunded, and it would appease the antigovernment people.

Shakes, if we used federal taxes to pay for the preschool, we'd be doing exactly what you say.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 12, 2005 5:36:42 PM

Er, there is an existing public preschool program, of sorts. The federal law which mandates that children with disabilities get a "free, appropriate public education" (I.D.E.A., Idividuals with Disabilities Education Act) covers children from ages 3 through 21.

To fufill this requirement, many public school systems have established their own preschools. Our current school district has a preschool that puts 6 kids with disabilities in a class with 6 typically developing kids (that's the pc jargon for "normal"). The typically-developing kids pay tuition and have to enter a lottery for a spot; their parents want to send them there because it has highly trained teachers and a real curriculum, something you might not find in say, a church-sponsored preschool.

Some districts don't set up preschool programs but pay other districts which do to take their kids. There are other variations, too. My kid's first preschool experience was in a program jointly sponsored by the district we used to live in and the local county board of MR/DD (mental retardation/developmental disabilities). It also had a 6/6 mix, which I liked because research has shown it's better for kids with disabilities to be with their typically developing peers.

Posted by: A Special Ed Mom | Nov 12, 2005 7:22:45 PM

I'd love to see the research that shows that preschool is a positive good. Especially when considering middle-class kids, I don't think the research is there.

Publically funded preschool for inner-city poor kids, fine. Publically funded preschool (i.e. daycare) for middle-class kids, ridiculous.

Posted by: Cardinal Fang | Nov 13, 2005 12:42:06 AM

Free preschool should be for everyone, regardless of income, etc. All kids should able to participate. Just because your over income for free pre k doesnt mean you can really afford it either. Should the middle class also pay for k thru 12? No, of course not. But if it is beneficial to the children, why not make pre k free for all, just like k thru 12? Only make pre k voluntary, not mandatory.

Posted by: mom | Nov 29, 2005 10:38:07 AM

I have been reading about this whole "preschool for all" issue and I just found people writing about if this should be free for everybody or not. If it is going to be to expensive and the government can not afford it. And I found people defending both sides.

One thing everybody seems to agree is that we need to get the maximum of those little brains because they are ready to "learn" more than what they are "academically" learning.

Have you ever stopped for 1 minute to think?

** What is it that children should be learning at the age of 3 or 4?? Is it so important that they "lean" maths and letters by then?? after all we don't want our kids ending up in "JAIL" just because we wanted to allow them to enjoy their childhood in our family environment.

** why children need to go to school in order to become social, why is it so difficult to be friends just with the child next door?

** Isn't he learning something when he stays in a family environment going for walks, enjoying free plays with neighbors instead of going to preschool? isn't he learning about family bondage, social skills, feeling of safety, trust, love, protection, self-esteem, self assurance, identity? if so, is this a kind of learning that we can measure, isn't the fact that we can not measure it what makes us feel it doesn't exist?.

** Children learn to walk after the 13 month (usually) and get to be potty trained by... let's say 2 1/2 years old, active being able to engage on conversations and a game with another child by age 3; so we can say they are just becoming sort of independent, ready to play children by 3, How come they don't get to have a childhood free of schedules, homework, academically directed learning?? When did it become unacceptable to just enjoy your childhood with no pressures, you know just be a child?? Are we doing it for them or for us, because is convenient, or cheaper, or expected??

think about it, does an educational system know better what is good for my child than me??. It's just a thought.

Posted by: MAG | Dec 8, 2005 6:45:24 PM

I agree children should be children, but, what about the children that do not get to play with the neighborhood kids, or go to parks and socailize? What about the children who do not have that conversation with parents or siblings, to learn to discuss or problem solve.What about the children who are not exposed to the letters or numbers because their parent is too busy, stressed or under educated themself to help the 4 year old learn? I have been teaching preschoolers for 18 years and I have seen many children come in that know a lot because a parent or someone had worked with that child. Unfortunatley, I have seen more children who have no clue what their name looks like or how to sit at a table and eat properly, or how to act with other children because they are left alone and have no role model showing them or interacting with them. I am not sure how I feel about this "preschool for all" prop as of yet, but I am sure preschool is a wonderful opportunity for children and I would love to see all children have the experience before attending kindergarten. I work for Head Start so I am bias, but I know what I have seen and I truely believe we make a difference, or I wouldn't still be doing this this work!

Posted by: Teressa | Mar 19, 2006 1:50:15 PM

Even though I know that educational wise my children will not benefit from preschool. I feel they could benefit socially in some ways. I think it's really unfair that middle class families are excluded. They have these commercials that talk about children being better off if they go to preschool which is great, but what is irritating is that they don't elaborate on how it's only beneficial to low income individuals that cannot provide the skills necessary to help them succeed in preschool. Just like they provide free K-12 for all. They should offer the same for everyone else who wants it as well.

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