Early Education in the News
The movement for universal preschool is spreading. For the current fiscal year, 26 state legislatures approved $600 million more than the preceding year on their pre-kindergarten programs.
In a year when the state will have a $700 million surplus, it makes perfect sense to add spending in early childhood education -- an investment that will save money later.
Preschool can provide an academic edge for young children, but only if the curriculum is conducive to their formative cognitive, emotional and social development.
In a move that could have a large impact on New York's enormous day care industry, the state Legislature in May approved an additional $50 million for schools offering pre-kindergarten classes, on top of the $200 million the state already provides for public pre-K programs. The $50 million marks the first increase in state pre-K funding in five years.
The funds initially will be targeted toward eight poor school districts in the state.
[W]hen lawmakers consider whether universal preschool is a cost worth considering, they invariably focus on academic preparation, when the real value of a child's first school experience is less measurable, but more profound in its life long implications. Of course, we do not have a standardized test to measure such things; we have only to pick up the newspaper each day to see what sorts of messes are made when adults have not managed to internalize these lessons.
The measure envisioned free half-day preschool at public schools and private learning centers for all children, regardless of family income.
The bill, which would take effect in the fall of 2008, reflects a decades-old worry about sending children to school too early. Rep. Dale Folwell, a Forsyth County Republican and the chief sponsor, said the legislation is aimed at ensuring children are not so many months behind their classmates developmentally because of an arbitrary date.
Even if your parents speak English at home, at 4 years old you have a ways to go before mastering the language. But, especially for 4-year-olds whose first language is Spanish or Hmong or Vietnamese, quality preschool can improve the transition to elementary school.
Experts say only premium programs pack the punch that educators say is needed to help the most disadvantaged children prepare for kindergarten.
Many education analysts are tracking the California debate over whether pre-kindergarten should be universal or targeted to disadvantaged kids.
No other social program has been evaluated more than preschool education.
The smaller amount proposed by the governor would go mostly to children from poor families who are not already enrolled.
Heeding studies showing that investing money in kids before kindergarten increases their chances of graduating and staying out of jail, nearly half of governors this year are pushing for -- and many are getting -- more funding for preschool education.
A proposed universal preschool program on California's June ballot would dramatically increase student achievement and could eventually become a national model if it is adopted, early education researchers say.
The bill would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create standards for optional early education programs designed to help pre-kindergarten children with social, emotional and language development.
State lawmakers and the past couple of governors of Minnesota have been told by wide-ranging groups in recent years there are good reasons for making a higher priority of investing in programs for little kids.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine promised expanded preschool during his campaign last year, but did not push for it during the most recent General Assembly session. On Friday, Kaine plans to announce the members of his early education council, which will propose a model for expanding preschool in Virginia.
The commonsense and practical solution is to expand preschool services at the state level within the structures that already exist in the Department of Education and in local school districts. This would guarantee children a seamless transition from pre-kindergarten programs into public kindergarten programs.
Georgia's example is one of several state programs studied by the drafters of California's initiative, who hope voters will back an effort that they argue would give all students a jump-start on traditional kindergarten. Doing so, supporters hope, would translate into achievement gains for students in the nation's most populous state.