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Should Pre-School Be Free?

By Danielle |

Preparing kids for school is important!

I sometimes write for a local publication about issues parents are facing in Connecticut. Recently free pre-school programs became the topic of interest.

And quickly turned into a hot button issue full of mudslinging. Some parents accusing supporters of the idea of being welfare leaches, and well… you can get where the debate went!

Alas, most parents support the idea across the board-which is a total relief as a parent myself. I would never want a child to go without because someone may have a personal hangup about something. Would you?

But it is not just an issue for parents in Connecticut! It is something parents all over the country should be thinking about, because of the important nature of pre-school!

Now, when I use the term pre-school, I am talking about an actual structured pre-school program kids ages 3 and up can attend to prepare for kindergarten the following year. I am not talking about free daycare under the word-doctoring of pre-school. Just to clarify that one before I got into it!

Even though a pre-school program didn’t really fit into our families budget this year, we made it happen for one of our sons because he will be going into Kindergarten the following school year, and I knew the benefits he would have by being enrolled for a year in a structured-playbased pre-school classroom.

It is clear every day he comes home from school that we made the right decision enrolling him.

In fact in June of 2011 the Chicago Sun Times covered a story about the benefits of pre-school impacting our children well into adulthood!  Yes, adulthood!  The study covered:

◆ 80 percent of the preschool group finished high school versus 75 percent of the others;

◆ Nearly 15 percent of the preschool group attended a four-year college, versus 11 percent of the others;

◆ 28 percent of the preschool group had skilled jobs requiring post-high school training versus 21 percent of the others;

◆ Average annual adult income for the preschool group was about $11,600 versus $10,800 for the others.

◆ 48 percent of the preschool group had been arrested in adulthood and 15 percent had been incarcerated, versus 54 percent of the others arrested and 21 percent incarcerated.

All of these things may seem like minor or simple differences to us as adults, but if adding one year to a public school education can make even just the slightest positive impact why not just go for it?

These pre-school programs are often part time. I know ours is three days a week for four hours a day. Just enough to teach structured play, social interaction, and of course show them a small preview of what they will be jumping into the following school year.

Education is the key to the future of our country, and in 2012 which is a big election year, why not start with our children? They are the future leaders of our country!  Not to get all political or anything I just think our kids are more important than some of the stuff America is currently throwing money at, and I am sure many of you agree!

So now… parents of toddlers, this is where I ask you… do you think that there should be some form of free pre-school programs available for children all over our country?

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Danielle Elwood is a straight-shooting Florida based mom of three and emerging indie author. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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23 thoughts on “Should Pre-School Be Free?

  1. Rebecca says:

    I am for it. First ask what your child’s teacher and the aide gets paid? Ask them about benefits even something as simple as vacation or sick pay, they normally don’t get anything. Then ask how much of their pay they put back into the classroom. Then honk about the family where mom and dad work don’t spend on extras and still can’t afford quality preschool.

  2. Someone says:

    While I agree preschool has benefits for our children, and those benefits would logically endure until adulthood I would like to point out one thing: A single study with a small research group of 1,000 people which was primarily made up of African American low income kids from Chicago hardly constitutes as evidence for anything.

    1. Danielle says:

      @Someone- There are a lot more studies that can be cited…

      I could go on and on, but it was just one specific study I picked to cite here.
      I think we need to focus more on the low income children as well, no matter what their race is.

  3. Heather C. says:

    I can’t say it loud enough: YES! When I was in college I had a pre-schooler who I took out HUGE loans for to send to an exclusive pre-k school. By my last year I couldn’t afford it and discovered we qualified for Head Start. My son, now 18, remembers that as one of his most productive earlier school years.

    Also, having taught at both Montessori and Regio Amelia schools and witnessing the wonders that transpire in the pre-K school rooms I believe it is such a vital time of life for learning.

  4. Heiddi says:

    Hi there. I think that it would be great to have free pre-school. I was lucky enough to be able to send my son to a great pre-school due to a low-cost program based on my salary. I know that there are people who take advantage of the system, but that’s true with anything created – ie they can be used and abused. That being said, if pre-school can’t be free, it should at least be made available based on the parent’s income. My son had the best education ever – diverse, he learned the basics and he learned how to use a computer by age three. He also learned about other cultures and faiths. And if I could replicate that experience for him now at school, I would. :) Thanks for letting me share!

  5. Shantel says:

    I have a son in preschool right now, and we pay quite a bit for private preschool because he has to go all day everyday (both my husband and I work full-time), whereas preschool in public schools are generally only a couple hours a day 3 or 4 days a week. I don’t complain, I love his school and he is getting a great education, but I do agree that there should be programs to help low income families who can’t afford to send their child to school while they are working. There are some programs out there, my aunt qualified for free preschool because she is a single working mother and doesn’t make the best money so her daughter gets to go to preschool 4 days a week for about 3 hrs a day. I hope that they keep on creating more programs because all children need to go to school.

  6. TK says:

    My children went to preschool and my grandson is currently in preschool. It’s a wonderful program for children. I work at a church that has a fabulous preschool program (not a baby sitting service) and we offer scholarships.

    I have a problem with the concept of free for a variety of reasons. Based on personal observation in different scenarios, when people have no investment they tend to have little motivation, commitment, or respect. Free creates an attitude of entitlement rather than a work ethic. Finally, nothing is free. Someone will be paying for “free” preschool, most likely overtaxed taxpayers. It is fiscally irresponsible. Any free preschool should be privately funded.

  7. Angie says:

    Yes I agree. Free pre-k for all childran no matter the race or economic background. If wealthy people decide to pay private, that’s up to them. I don’t qualify for any program because my husband and I both work, thank God to that. I take my daughter to daycare and I found a great daycare that also offers classes to show them letters, numbers and they do activities. But I would love to enroll her in pre-k so she can have a different perspective of what school is really like and she can get into that mode. I’m still researching the pre-k in my area so I can enroll her for a few hours.

  8. Robbie says:

    As a pre-k teacher for more than 12 years (the majority of which I spent working with at-risk kiddos in just the types of programs you are describing) i am a VERY strong advocate of preschool for all. I think many people sorely underestimate the skills required for “big school”. TI was frustrating for me to work at such a fantastic program providing a much needed resource for at risk children and families and yet be unable to afford the same quality of preschool education for my own children.

  9. Jennifer says:

    My daughter was in pre-school and when she started Kindergarten you could definitely tell a difference between the kids that had been and the ones that had not. She was used to being in a structured classroom, being surrounded by other kids, being on a set schedule every day. I know some parents do a really great job at home teaching their kids and keeping them on a schedule, but some don’t. I think it would be beneficial for all children to have some type of exposure to a structured learning environment before they start school.

  10. Heather says:

    While correlation may be there, causation may not be. Kids who go to preschool may do better in life because attending preschool reflects something else.

    I am not sure where the money would come from to fund preschool for all.

  11. Hannah Pratt says:

    Yes. I definately think people of all income levels should have the oppertunity for their kids to participate in a quaility preschool program.

  12. Michelle says:

    I think preschool should be offered on a tiered program based on income. If the parents cannot truly afford the program then scholarships could be offered or drastically reduced prices. Those who could pay full price, would and should to help offset the costs. Do all children need preschool? Yes! Should it be free for all? NO. As TK said, Free gives people the air of “entitlement” and people take advantage of that situation. I am a public school teacher, which is free to all students, but you would be surprised at how many Kindergarten students are absent regularly simply because the parents don’t want to get up to get them to school. Kindergarten is NOT mandatory, yet is also a huge foundation for their adult years. I think the USA just needs to refocus their priorities and realize that education no matter what age should be put first, not last on the totem pole.

  13. Natalie says:

    All three of my kids went to preschool, which was progressively more expensive each go around. I would do it all over again! They all came out of Play/Pre School able to write letters, their names and many other skills.

  14. Tara says:

    I think there definitely needs to be more affordable “quality” options. In my city, there are some pre-schools for free at the public schools. Not every school has pre-k and it’s all done by lottery. So if you’re not very low-income by federal standards where you can qualify for “head start” and you don’t get in on the lottery, you don’t have a lot of options. We paid for a really good pre-school in another town for 3 days a week last year even though it was well over what we could really afford. But my daughter needed it and she is doing better in Kindergarten this year because of what she learned last year. I see the benefits of it. I hate that the disadvantages for kids in “middle class” and lower income families start from day one. Seems like they are set up to fail sometimes.

  15. Danielle says:

    @Tara – That is how it is in my city. We applied to have our oldest son put into the “lottery” for the free public school program, but alas it is done via a lottery system. There are nearly 300 children battling for 60 spots. Needless to say he didn’t get in and it was back to the drawing board.
    At that point we looked into our local Head Start, which we made too much money for, and it was so close to the school year they only had one spot available anyway.
    We were lucky to get the spot we did in the pre-school he is in now.

    But I think people are missing the point as a whole. I am not saying there are NO free programs available. I am saying that it should be a across the board standard like some states already have. For example Florida, and Oklahoma. It is available to every pre-school aged child no matter what social class, or income level their parent falls in.

    You do not have to wait in lotteries and hope your child gets a spot, or worry about if you make $15 too much to be qualified for free or discounted pre-school.

  16. Heather says:

    I can still remember some of the things I did at preschool. I remember the little carpet samples we used to sit on during music time and story time. I remember craft time and making things from salt dough to bring home to my mom and dad. And I remember playing outside on the giant wooden ship. I am still friends with a couple of people I MET in preschool. And I’m 29. That has to say something about the impact it has, doen’t it? My parents didn’t pay for me to go, according to my mother, whom I distinctly recall complaining about the cost of preschool for my now 15yo brother and about how he would go less often that us 3 older kids, and she’d have to pay a fortune for it. And that was 12 years ago, when she began to try to figure out all that stuff for when he was 3. She said she was actually going to have to start a savings account to pay for his school, just so he could go at all! Since when should we have to pay to educate our toddlers? It makes no sense to me.

  17. Rossana says:

    Hello, I am one that thinks NOTHING should be free, there can be low-cost and income-based fees but once things become free they are unappreciated… Pre-K is one of my most fondest memories, my nephew who is 10 years older than me went to the same pre-k as me and it was a wonderful experience for him as well. I am a young mother (23) my baby is (18 m) and I hope I can find a great Pre-K for him. With that being said I am one who understands budgets, so I hope to find something good and not too expensive.

  18. Danielle says:

    @Rossana- I agree, and disagree. There are a lot of things in life that people do not appreciate when they are free. We see it every day. But I don’t think a public school education happens to be one of those. Maybe during our school years we don’t appreciate it very much, and I can tell you I hated school as a whole… but looking back I appreciate it above everything.

  19. Marie says:

    Free preschool yes, please! I have seen the huge difference it makes in kids and I think it’s worth giving that chance to every child. We all benefit when we invest in children (ie less investing in jails later on, more success in schools, all that jazz). The problem I see is the “good but not too expensive” preschools rarely exist, or if they do, the teachers aren’t paid well enough to get by with only one job. My 3 year old attends 2 half days a week and it’s been great for her, but even better for some of her classmates who barely talked in September and now are approaching full sentences. I wish all kids could learn and grow in a structured way that helps them feel successful when they get to kindergarten and I’m willing to put my future tax dollars into it.

  20. Blair says:

    I have to say I live in SC and our preschool is free…so I’m not really sure why you guys would have to pay for it unless it’s private?

    1. Danielle says:

      @Blair – There are a very select few free preschools which are mostly based on income levels of the families. At least the ones in my town filled up incredibly fast, and had a waiting list by the end of the school year (for the next year). It is not like public schools where is is free for all and there is enough spots for all the children.

  21. Nicola says:

    I dont know what to think about this. I kinda think all familie should have the opportunity to send their child if they want, but someone does end up paying for it in the end, Also, as a qualified nursery nurse from the uk, and child studies student (In a couple of years when I finish my degree and get the rest of the qualifications I need I am going to apply for teacher training), being a pre school teacher/nursery nurse here is classed as a very low status, low paid job, even though childcare costs are fairly high, which leads me to beleive most pre school providers are not paying their staff properly but are keeping the money for tehmselves. Pre school teachers have perhaps one of the ost important jobs there are, and they dont get the pay they deserve, they work long hours and are under appreciated.So free? Possibly not, but these workers wil still get minimum wage, the standards I fear would go down.

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