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Policy Brief - The Universal vs. Targeted Debate:  Should the United States Have Preschool for All?

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Policy Brief – The Universal vs. Targeted Debate: Should the United States Have Preschool for All?


April 1, 2004
AccessEconomics and FinanceGovernance and AccountabilityOutcomesState & LocalUniversal and Targeted

The debate over universal vs. targeted preschool programs is explored in this policy brief. Policy recommendations include a gradual move toward voluntary universal preschool programs with federal matching funds used to encourage states to fund high-quality preschool for all.

By W. Steven Barnett, Kirsty Brown, and Rima Shore
NIEER Policy Brief (Issue 6, April 2004)

Summary

The debate over universal vs. targeted preschool programs is explored in this policy brief. While targeted programs traditionally have lower costs, universal programs are more effective at reaching all targeted children. And while the academic achievement gap is most dramatic between children in poverty and those with the most resources, school readiness is not just a problem of the poor. School readiness for the majority of children can improve with better preschool education. Policy recommendations include a gradual move toward voluntary universal preschool programs with federal matching funds used to encourage states to fund high-quality preschool for all.

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