America's Preschools in "A State Of Emergency"Rebekah Kuschmider
A new report released this week from Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research Gives the US a failing grade for preschool funding. According to the Huffington Post:
Funding per student for state pre-school programs has reached its lowest point in a decade, according to “The State of Preschool 2012,” the annual yearbook released by Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research. “The 2011-2012 school year was the worst in a decade for progress in access to high-quality pre-K for America’s children,” the authors wrote. After a decade of increasing enrollment, that growth stalled, according to the report. Though the 2011-2012 school year marks the first time pre-K enrollment didn’t increase along with the rate of population change…
…This means state pre-K funding per child has fallen more than $1,100 in real dollars from 2001-2002. “That’s the lowest since we’ve been tracking pre-K,” Barnett said. He called the cuts “severe” and “unprecedented.” This is the first time NIEER has seen average, per-student spending slip below $4,000.
This comes hot on the heels of an Obama Administration push for universal preschool in America, an initiative that could even the gap between lower and upper income kids as they reach elementary school grades. Preschool is particularly valuable to low income children according to an article in Slate:
Research suggests that preschool only benefits children from these disadvantaged families (in particular, families that are below the poverty line, whose mothers are uneducated, or who are racial minorities). This could be because preschool acts as a kind of “equalizer,” ensuring that for at least a few hours a day, these kids get the same high-quality interaction with adults as more advantaged children do, which helps to even the developmental playing field.
I simply can’t see a downside to increasing access to high quality preschool for all kids in America. It may not be as beneficial to higher income kids as it is to lower income kids but it certainly wouldn’t be detrimental to them. I think it should be part of public school and should be free for all families. DC has a preschool for all program and it’s been very successful – in fact the NIEER report shows that DC is a leader in preschool spending and the access for kids as young as 3 to guaranteed preK in the public schools could be a model fo the nation. Not only is it an educational leg up for kids, it provides a much lower-cost child care option to the many two-working-parent households in the area.
Now, I’m sure some people will call me a tax-and-spend liberal who wants to hand out more money and programs and enable low income people to mooch off the taxpayers for child care and early childhood education. (You wouldn’t be the first to say that about me. You wouldn’t even be the first to say that about me this week.) But the undeniable fact is that for kids in lower income families preschool provides them with an educational benefit that can help orevent them from falling behind in later grades. I think that’s worth a community investment.
It’s past time we started providing high quality early childhood education to all American kids. It’s the right thing to do.
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