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The Best Thing We Could Do About Inequality Is Universal Preschool – Emily Badger – The Atlantic Cities.

Very good little piece from the Atlantic Cities discussing the importance of getting involved in children’s lives and giving them a positive societal influence as soon as possible.

There are two important factors to take away from the article.  The first is the overall effect of earlier schooling for kids:

A policy of free preschool for all poor children would have a raft of cost-effective benefits for society and the economy: It would increase social mobility, reduce income inequality, raise college graduation rates, improve criminal behavior (saving some of the societal expenses associated with it), and yield higher tax revenue thanks to an increase in lifetime wages…every dollar invested in quality early childhood development yields a 7 to 10 percent return, per child per year, including even younger than preschool.
The difficult part of this, of course, is that it isn’t a quick reward so politicians aren’t really interested.  What does the average elected official really think about pushing for a policy that won’t show any effects of paying off for at least 20 years?  Not much and that is why it is such a mountain to climb when trying to create this type of thing legislatively.

The second important factor is the recognition of the negative effects we are letting continue by not implementing earlier childhood education policies:

A child of parents who never went to college is less likely to go to college herself…And the clustering of poverty in whole parts of town threatens to cut her children off from access to good schools and healthy neighborhoods.
In other words, it’s a cycle of poverty.  We’ve seen how class mobility in the U.S. has decreased as time goes on and this is a factor adding to that.  If we look at the poorer areas of our cities and wonder why things do not change, it’s because we haven’t been willing to truly make the right moves in terms of investing in the future and we are paying a price for that now and will continue to do so for years to come.

This type of investment is not one that will give us instant results.  But ideas like this are rational steps in the right direction to ensure life opportunities grow for so many more citizens across America.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We went from half-day to full-day kindergarten... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    ...just about everywhere over the past couple of decades and it hasn't done anything for the achievement or social mobility of poor children, and I don't believe universal pre-K will do it either.  It's just not an empirically solid argument.  The solid argument, in my opinion, is that kids are teachable a year younger than we used to think, so we should start teaching them a year younger--especially since almost everyone with the private means to do that is already doing it.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 06:04:10 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, I'm on Pink Floyd's side here (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich in PA

      "Leave Them Kids Alone"!

      IOW, let them enjoy being kids for at least 3 or 4 years of their lives.

      But reading in between the lines in this diary, it seems like this endeavor is really intended to "rescue" kids from really bad home situations usually exacerbated by poverty.

      Which I guess is thought to be easier or more doable than addressing the root conditions that lead to the much-too-high levels of poverty that exist in the USA today

      •  I think you're absolutely right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy

        I suspect that all of the gains--not just some, but all--from providing pre-K to poor children come from not having them in the home for several hours a day.  We've wasted two generations as progressives decrying the pathologization of poverty and then we wonder why society won't fork over serious money to address poverty.

        You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

        by Rich in PA on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 06:38:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Some of it is getting the kids out of their homes (0+ / 0-)

        Some of it is creating better day care situations for parents who are working.

        Some of it is helping families to find friends and bind to each other in the community.

        Some of it is just getting kids out to play with other kids in a safe place with fun toys.

        My daughter did not go to preschool, because there simply wasn't one she was eligible to attend that we could make work. We made too much for the state preschool; we didn't make enough for the private preschool; and we didn't have the time to drive her further afield. So, she stayed home with me and her father while we worked from home.

        Now, my daughter is at the top of her class and has done fine academically. However, I think she would have benefitted quite a bit from having that free play time with the other kids, the other kids who mostly all have cousins and an extensive network of friends. At the time there was no local playground, either, no place to go where she could meet the neighbor kids and play with them. She really needed that time socializing with other little kids and I could not give it to her, nor could I give her my undivided attention during the day to be her playmate.

        Preschool is about play and a rich environment. All kids need that, and not all kids have it at home regardless of socioeconomic status.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 08:39:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Please keep in mind that no one is talking about (0+ / 0-)

        preschool being compulsory. Kindergarten isn't usually even compulsory. This provides options, and I'm a strong proponent of play-based preschool.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 09:37:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's not about education (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich in PA

      It's about the cost of daycare.

      •  Very true, and yet another limit... (0+ / 0-) the universal-preK argument.  People aren't dumb, and they know that a lot of this pitch is about moving child care from a realm where people have to pay to a realm where they don't.

        You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

        by Rich in PA on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 06:39:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How is that bad exactly, though? (0+ / 0-)

          Will you make the same claim for kindergarten? Or first grade?

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 08:40:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Who said it was bad? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            It's just a question of socialism.   There is a benefit for community to pool resources to care for young children, so that the parents are available to work in the community.    There is also a benefit to community to have some visibility and influence over the quality of care that young children receive.

            I see firsthand, in my community, the costs to families and children who struggle with childcare.   I was just speaking to a parent of my child's best friend.  She had cancer, and two children under age 3 as well as an older child.   She went through a period where her husband worked and she stayed home with the kids.  Symptoms of her cancer and other conditions progressed to a point where her mental status was severely compromised, and her health status was so bad she could not get up on her feet at times.   She could not adequately care for her kids.  BUT, the kids were there with her regardless, and it is a miracle that nothing bad happened.    At one point, she had no phone (remember -- very poor), and was helpless on the floor, and she asked her three year old to walk a block by himself, to a relative's house,  to ask for help.  Too many stores like this to count.

            Even if she'd daycare, she still might have had  aproblem, because she couldn't drive to get them there (epilepsy, no car, no money for gas).  Husband left too early in the morning.

            Complex problems.  No easy solutions.   Children are the ones to suffer.

            •  I'm right there with you (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Preschool costs as much, sometimes more, than college in most areas. Young twentysomething families are struggling to pay that amount, even if they have good jobs, and many do not.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 10:01:30 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Your claim (0+ / 0-)

      that the achievement of poor children has not increased is I suspect not supported by the data.

      That the gap between poor and wealthy children has increased is true - because wealthy children are doing better.

      But in general, we see that low income kids ARE achieving more academically than they used to, especially kids of color. The line of what we consider "adequate" has moved up the hill substantially from where it was when we were kids. Districts like LAUSD show significant gains.

      It is most certainly not good enough, and there is much to be done. It will always be an uphill battle.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 10:06:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, (0+ / 0-)

      most states haven't required kindergarten or required a full-day of it.  I'm sure many schools offer it (mine did not in the mid-to-late '80s) but I think it's not accurate to say we have truly seen the potential effects of that on a nationwide scale.  We have seen college graduation rates increase gradually over time and this could certainly be an indication of the increase in earlier education.  I'm sure there have been studies done somewhere comparing by country results (think France has heavier intervention at earlier ages, not sure) so taking a look at the status indicators of the poor by that would be a better indication of success.

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