public preschool help

Biden Proposes Huge Increase in Public Preschool

By Rebecca Martin

Despite some inconsistent studies, public preschool funding is necessary for the long term development of our country. Public preschool is our most direct path to addressing, crime, poverty and inequality. Why address this issue on a public blog? Because cognitive and emotional health and recovery is the core mission of the Brain Injury Law Group. Carbon Monoxide poisoning in those who survive impacts those domains. Attorney Gordon Johnson

Most Americans are familiar with the concept of public preschool due to the Head Start Program created in 1965 by President Johnson. The program was aimed at low income families and began as a summer pilot program providing support for low income families through education and health and nutrition screenings. It also provided information on available services for low income families. It quickly became a mainstay in the United States.

Public preschool started in the U.S. with Head Start. Head Start  focuses on increasing school readiness as well as providing nutritious meals and services for the entire family which includes family literacy.

public preschool help

Public preschool provides our most direct and cost effective way to address poverty and inequality in the United States. Any added cost in taxes will be returned manyfold because of greater income and lower poverty. A person with a college degree will make multiples of someone who doesn’t graduate from high school. More income means more income taxes paid by that individual.

In the 1960s only 10% of the nation’s 3 and 4 year-olds were enrolled in preschool. By 2005, 69% were enrolled in some type of preschool program and the number continues to increase.

This increase is due to several factors; one being the rise in maternal employment since the 1960s. With more mothers in the work force, the need for childcare has risen dramatically. National anti-poverty measures have provided funding for an increase in these services as well.

Public Preschool Received much Study

Head Start  provided much of the early data for researchers. Researchers found that the impact on the low income sector of our population benefited society long term in many ways.

“The benefits of early education are well known. It has an impact on how long children stay in school and whether they turn to crime.”

Research also discovered that early childhood development had a great impact on brain development in children. This led to greater self-esteem, higher IQs and a decrease in behavioral issues. Much of the reason more parents are enrolling their children in preschool is due to the findings of the research done on children in the Head Start  Program.

Statewide Programs for Public Preschool

During the 1980s, some states began implementing their own programs for children of low income families. This greatly expanded options and today we see not only federal and statewide programs for public preschool but a rise in independent providers, both profit and non-profit. There are also various subsidies available for qualifying students. Most of these programs and subsidies are available to low income families only. But some states are working on public preschool available to the entire population, i.e., universal preschool.

Georgia, Illinois, Florida, Oklahoma, West Virginia, New Jersey and New York all have legislation in progress or in place addressing public preschools for four year-olds. Illinois has the only universal program which extends to three year-olds as well.

What Motivates the Opponents?

There are opponents to public preschool who cite the urgent need to target school funding to our struggling public school system rather than stretch such funding to universal preschool education. Another argument is an old one from the opponents to school taxes in general who feel that those not utilizing the service should not be taxed to fund it. And then there are those who feel that the benefits of a universal preschool program do not warrant the expense. Darcy Ann Olsen, an entitlements policy analyst at the Cato Institute argues:

“Experience provides little reason to believe universal preschool would significantly benefit children, regardless of family income. For nearly 40 years, local, state, and federal governments and diverse private sources have funded early intervention programs for low-income children, and benefits to the children have been few and fleeting.”

She goes on to argue that the benefits have not proven worth the costs for children of low income families and that the benefits provided by preschool for middle-class children is “unlikely to be greater or more enduring.” She contends that we have failed at education in our public schools so why expand our funding and efforts into preschool.

Some recent studies dispute earlier results and contend that preschool may actually be detrimental to a child’s social and cognitive development, providing only a temporary cognitive boost in pre-reading and math. UC Berkeley and Stanford University released results from a study of 14,000 kindergartners which contradicted earlier research based on the Head Start Program.

Best Research Supports Overall Benefits of Public Preschool

However, a current study from the MIT Department of Economics in conjunction with the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled The Long-Term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston, May 2021, was recently featured in the NY Times. The study set out to determine the effect that universal preschool might have on college attendance, SAT scores, and high school graduation. As well as continuing to address the impact it has on juvenile incarceration.

The reasons for this study coincide with contemporary  proposals on the federal, state and local levels to expand our current preschool programs and access the benefits derived from such an expansion. And also to reexamine the decades old studies on which we base our views of preschool benefits. Because there has been some dispute over the results of earlier studies and those disputes are generally based on studying test scores once children reach elementary school, it is felt by the researchers that:

“These disagreements may stem from the fact that no study to date has used a randomized research design to study the long-term effects of a large-scale preschool program.”

The researchers used a lottery-based research design with more than 4000 randomized four year-olds from 1997-2003 with 20 years of follow ups for long-term outcomes. The findings are notable and at odds with the studies implying that any benefits disappear quickly upon entering kindergarten.

They found that those students who had been enrolled in preschool had a boost of 8 percentage points in college attendance following graduation. And it was predicted that graduation from college was similarly expected though some students were not yet at that point by the publish date of the study. All in all, students attending colleges the fall after graduation, students attending four year colleges, students attending college in their state and overall college attendance were boosted by the initial enrollment in the preschool system.

They found that preschool enrollment boosted high school graduation by 6 percentage points and a 9 percentage point increase in SAT test-taking. SAT scores were more likely to be in the top quartile with a decrease of those in the bottom quartile.

“Preschool attendance reduces the frequency of suspensions and the probability that students are incarcerated while in high school.”

Head Start had not differentiated on the effects preschool might have based on sex, race or income. However the MIT study found that boys benefited the most from preschool enrollment.

The results indicate that studies done in the short term to evaluate the benefits of public preschool enrollment have fallen short and that the greatest benefit is not seen until much later in the student’s career with an increase in SAT test-taking, high school graduation and college attendance. And that preschool enrollment had a significant impact on students many years after due to  the skill formations attained in preschool which lead to higher level of overall academic achievement.

And while statistically, the relationship between public preschool and  crime prevention are not outstanding, the improvement in behavior is significant. Better behaved children are going to be better behaved adults, all other things being equal. Regardless of what the research might say, we certainly believe that and would advocate for a program that starts with preschool children.

Those citing that little difference in student achievement is discoverable upon entering elementary school are speaking only a small part of the truth. Longer term studies are revealing that the skills learned in preschool have benefits in students post grade 10 and up. And not only are more students attending two and four year colleges, they are attending “on time”, entering college the fall after graduation.  The statistics for college attendance are expected to rise higher as students enter colleges at later dates. The early statistics in the rise in college graduation fall at around 5.2% which is an early estimate due to the number of subjects still in attendance at the time of publication.

As of 2008, 38 states and the District of Columbia invested in at least some preschool programs.  Some school districts provide these services as well using local and federal funds. The average cost of providing these services currently across the nation is $6,582 per child.

And today we see a vast variety of methods used in preschools. Examples would be Montessori, The Creative Curriculum, High Scope, Head Start, Reggio Emilio approach and many others.

There are other opponents to universal preschool and some of those are in the private childcare sector. Not only are they competing with public schools who can provide better salaries and benefits for teachers, they are also challenged if they lose their most lucrative clientele which is the preschool age group. Without 3-4 year-olds, they are left with the less cost effective infants and very young children who require more staff and care. In fact, the 3-4 year-olds are in many cases subsidizing the infant care. The concern is that with universal preschools readily available, childcare specialists may disappear which would impact working families in need of care for infants and younger children.

Some states which offer universal preschool options have adopted a mixed delivery option which also provides subsidies to private childcare providers to offset their financial losses.

There are also other benefits for a universal pre-k system. One additional benefit is that providing universal access to preschool enrollment we will see a more diverse classroom where children from different socio-economic backgrounds are integrated as opposed to attending a high-poverty only program. With more economic and racial diversity children will gain tolerance.

Studies have indicated that middle class children who were enrolled in preschools benefit as well. Economist, Tim Bartik, showed that middle class children show lifetime-earning gains as a result of attending a high quality preschool. His thoughts on the importance of investing in people and the importance of long range planning is a position to consider. Especially when those who disagree are merely looking a year or two beyond preschool and trying to convince us that the benefits do not justify the costs. They are purposefully ignoring the benefits to our entire society when we look 15 years down the road and beyond.

We also need to look at practical issues. Many public schools are overcrowded so child entering kindergarten is not going to receive the initial care and attention they would receive in a preschool setting.  The child’s familiarity with a school setting upon entering kindergarten is going to greatly enhance their experience as they are ready to learn from day one. The transition process into the public school system is much easier as a result.

Preschool also offers a transition from home to school with a mixed format of play and learning. Not only easing the child’s transition but also the parents’ transition as well by taking the guesswork out of whether one’s child is ready to transition to a structured academic setting.

And we see the additional benefits of improving motor skills, social skills, pre-reading, pre-math skills and self-care skills.

There is no greater or more precious asset than our children. They are the future embodied and whatever we can do to guarantee their success seems to be something no one should be debating. They are our future work force, future families, and future leaders and innovators. It has truly been an almost universally agreed upon issue by all political parties who see and investment in our children as in an investment in the entire nation’s future. Universal preschool is also an investment in our current economic growth with two income families struggling to meet daycare costs.

On April 28, 2021, President Biden announced the American Families plan which would include four more years of free education to all American children. This includes universal preschool for three and four year-olds as well as an additional two years of community college. It also includes an $85 billion investment in Pell Grants for students  seeking a certificate or two year or four year degree. It is of note that preschool is included in this plan to increase equity in education as well as to increase our global competitiveness.

Whatever your views, the momentum begun by President Johnson in the 60s, which has been expanding every year, is still going strong and we may eventually be seeing a country with an education system more equitable and inclusive than we ever imagined.

Benjamin Franklin said it well:

“An investment in knowledge pays the best dividends.”






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