Cross-posted at We Are Not Damaged Goods.
The National Institute for Early Education Research released a study on Thursday saying that it expects the State of California would get back $2.78 for every $1 invested in its potential universal preschool program.
California's Proposition 82 will be voted upon in June. If the proposal goes through, it will create an annual, universal preschool program open to all four-year-olds...
The measure would require preschool teachers to obtain teaching credentials and be paid at rates comparable to public school teachers. The state superintendent of public instruction would oversee the curriculum.
The program will cost $2.4 billion annually. To pay for the program (this, I think, is the best part) there will be a 1.7 percent increase on individual incomes over $400,000 and couples' incomes over $800,000.
Without getting into the pros and cons of the Proposition 82 (critics feel the money could be better used in "small-scale, intensive intervention programs for low-income and minority children"), I feel that this is exactly the type of program that our generation needs to champion. This program isn't about not leaving children behind. This program is about giving them a head-start. Even if you think the money could be spent on a better kind of program, it's hard to argue that measures like these are at least a step in the right direction. It's a program that determines to give an equal educational opportunity to all at the most crucial time in any education: the beginning.
My parents had the foresight to enroll me in preschool for two years, from the age of three to five. I am convinced that preschool layed the proverbial groundwork for the rest of my educational life. In preschool, children don't just learn about counting or the alphabet. They learn how to behave in school, and how to pay attention. They learn to enjoy the company of other kids. Basically, they learn to be social beings.
I have this fuzzy memory of my first day in kindergarten. It was the most exciting day of my tiny life. Holding my mother's hand, I bounced into the little schoolhouse, proudly sporting my brand-new Coca-Cola backpack and Super Mario Bros. lunchbox (complete with Thermos). I couldn't wait to go to "real school" like my two older brothers. My teacher, Mrs. Englebrecht, met us at the door with a smile. My mother gave me a quick kiss before letting me go off on my own.
Mrs. Englebrecht showed me to my seat, then went back to the door to meet the next kid. I looked around at all the new faces.
Every single one of them was crying. I was confused. Didn't they understand that this was the greatest thing to ever happen to us?
They weren't as prepared as I was. Preschool had given me one simple advantage over the other kids: confidence. I was comfortable being in new places without my mom and dad. For the others, that day was probably their first time away from their parents. No wonder they were crying.
This preparedness for school was no more important on that first day of kindergarten than it was thirteen years later, when I graduated tenth in a senior class of 500-plus in 2002.
We have all grown up in an preposterously unequal educational system. If we ever wish to correct these inequities, we must begin at the root. If we can't give all kids an equal educational opportunity once they arrive in elementary school, middle school, or high school; then I think the least we can do is give them this one year.
I'll be sure to keep an eye on how this turns out.