Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Preschool for Free for All

Preschool free-for-all. Universal preschool is the term used for free preschool, basically, extending public schooling to 4 year-olds, but its more complicated than that, of course. Its being done in California and Florida, its on the ballot or under consideration in many other states, including my own. I think I also saw something about it in British press too, but I don't have any links for you.

There are lots of articles you can read about it. The Wall Street Journal doesn't seem to like it -- it would create quite a bureaucracy for existing preschools. Also, it would upset the daycare industry, which would find itself facing obstacles if it wanted to come under the program or competition. And there is a whole website devoted to the issue.

What do you think? I'm not exactly sure what I think. I think its unnecessary and fiscally wasteful. I guess my view would be to extend HeadStart into higher income levels rather than going the UP route.

In some ways, UP seems to be benefitting the middle class and above by giving them something they would have paid for on their own. However, I wonder how many in the higher income brackets would take the state up on its offer -- I mean people who have money to spend on preschool might want something better or different (Montessori, Waldorf) than what the state is offering. An example is people who choose to pay for private schools instead of public school, so I think this might play out on the preschool level. But maybe not, I know someone in Georgia who paid for preschool for her kids but the youngest was able to get it for free through the state's lottery sponsored program [or whatever, but thats a different situation than taxing everyone, I guess. I don't know how the program works].

As a homeschooler, I think preschool is unnecessary, so I'm concerned that UP sends a misleading message about the critical importance of preschool, of early learning that can only take place in institutional settings with 'trained' professionals.

If UP is optional and one can choose to homeschool preschool (or skip preschool, however you'd like to term the phenomenon), I guess its not that big of a deal. Except for the money -- but, as a homeschooler (and like those who send their kids to private schools), I'm used to paying for an educational system I don't use and I get the public policy argument. Only I don't think the public policy argument is persuasive as to preschool.

1 comment:

Anne Zelenka said...

The great thing about preschool today is you can choose none, a little, or a lot--whatever you want and what you think is best for your family. I would worry that a universal preschool mandate would establish a one-size-fits-all solution.

It definitely seems fiscally wasteful, like you say.