Before we can discuss why it preschool should be universally-funded, we need to understand why it is beneficial enough to warrant such an effort in the first place. In this section, we will go over the importance of learning during early childhood as well as how pre-k helps in such regards.
The development that can occur during an individual's childhood is invaluable and cannot be replicated at any other point in their life. According to online resources posted by the California Department of Education, the most important years in a child's development is from birth to age three. They also mention that the first five years of a child's life are especially important for physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development.
Including early education, there are a variety of factors that can affect a child's development positively or negatively. These other factors include
Although all of these variables are present in child development, it can be difficult to understand exactly how effective they are in such a development process.
In 2016, T.D. Tran, S. Luchters, and J. Fisher conducted a study titled "Early childhood development: impact of national human development, family poverty, parenting practices and access to early childhood education" to analyze the relationships between family poverty, parents' caregiving practices, educational access, and child development of children living in low and middle-income countries. The data, which was acquired in UNICEF's Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, included 97,731 children aged between 3 to 5 years from 35 such countries.
Some takeaways from the study include:
Next, we will look at the preschool education specifically and how a quality program can accelerate a child's development.
A major factor in whether such development is reached or not is the early education that a child potentially receives before starting Kindergarten. Although research shows early education to be significantly beneficial to children, the quality of such education is also a determinant in whether it ends up helping the child's development.
In 2018, the Stark Education Partnership published a report titled "Never Too Early: The Importance of High-Quality Early Education and Care" which discusses such a problem. The full text can be found here
The Stark Education Partnership concluded their report by suggesting four attributes needed to ensure the successful early child care and education:
Given their extensive reserach and numerous published academic journals in the subject of early child education, I wrote a letter to the Stark Education Partnership inquiring about further information that could support the argument for universal Pre-K. They have yet to reply, but the letter is shown below.
Next, we need to figure out how exactly preschool can be made to be its most effective. To understand the specifics of successful child care and education implementations, we can look at some theories presented by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) in their article "High-Quality Preschool: Why We Need It and What It Looks Like".
In this article, which can be found on the Reading Rocket website here, the NIEER describe several esential aspects of quality preschool divided into two categories for 'process' and 'structure' as shown below:Process aspects
As you can see, there are various aspects that need to be acknowledged for the sake of effective preschool, and fulfilling such requirements not only requires work, but also funding.
The best solution to ensure that preschools can fulfill their necessary requirements and to ensure that the most amount of families have the opportunity to enroll their kids in a pre-k program is to use federal funding to allow for universal preschool across the United States.
To get a better understanding of what the most-necessary aspects of federally-funded universal pre-k should be when discussing the subject with the average person, a ten-question questionnaire was composed and sent to 20 people who volunteered to answer in Bakersfield, California. The responders will remain completely anonymous.
Below are the ten questions from the questionnaire. The same questions were asked of all 20 responding-individuals. Therefore, graphs analyzing the overall data will be shown under their respective question to keep the results compact, yet easy-to-read.
Were you or any of your (if any) siblings enrolled into Pre-K education as children?
Do you personally think Pre-K education has any significant impact on a child’s development?
Would you consider enrolling your children into a Pre-K program?
If ‘no’ to Question 3, would you change your mind if the program was free?
What do you think is the average cost of a single year of a Pre-K education program in California? (Please answer with your best guess and without researching it)
Do you think Pre-K education should be government-funded (like public K-12 school)?
If ‘yes’ to Question 6, would you be okay with a small sales tax increase (at most 0.5 percent) to allow for enough funding?
Do you know of any places in the United States that currently offer government-funded Pre-K programs, if any at all?
Do you actively participate in elections by voting either through mail or by voting in-person?
Have you ever contacted your state government representatives?
Although the sample size is small, questions 5 and 10 were clear indicators of a lack of public awareness about preschool costs as well as an indicator that many people have never contacted their state or congressional representatives despite being avid participants in elections. However, in the following sections, I will go over the federal budget and some easy methods on how to call your government officials.
As mentioned in the previous section, quality pre-k education and child care can be of great benefit to a child's development. However, further justification for the use of federal funds for universal pre-k can be found by looking at the potential benefits to working families, and the federal budget, which shows how insignificant these costs can end up being.
Give Parents More Flexibility
As a parent, raising a child requires a significant amount of constant effort. Ensuring such an effort is made can result in the hindering of a family reaching their maximum possible income due to one or more parent/guardians having to stop working for the sake of child care.
In 2013, Sarah Glynn, Jane Farrell, and Nancy Wu from the Center for American Progress discussed the struggles that mothers face when raising a child in their report "The Importance of Preschool and Child Care for Working Mothers". Their choices often come down to staying home with their child without a job or child care, pay out of pocket for preschool and child care while working, or being lucky enought to take advantage of child care subsidies which allows them to work and not have to worry too much about the costs associated with such care.
Below is a table from Glynn et al's report referencing information from the U.S. Census Bureau. It shows average weekly cild care expenditures of families with employed mothers that make payments.
By making pre-k universally available to all, we can ensure that all families have the opportunity to send their kids to preschool without being financially handicapped as a result.
Not a Cost, an Investment
In his article, "The Federal Role in Universal Pre-K", for the Brigham Young University Education & Law Journal, Brian McWalters argues that providing funding for unviersal pre-k in the United States is an issue that the federal government needs to address despite such education-related issues such as these usually being left to state governments to handle. Among his various arguments in support of universal pre-k, McWalters discusses the positive effects that such a program can have on the U.S. economy.
Some potential outcomes that could result from universal pre-k include:
With the increase of employment opportunities for preschool teachers and other staff (principles, janitors, counselors, etc), these people not only get a method of earning their wage, but they also end up paying federal taxes in the process. A similar outcome is found in situations where parents can both work jobs while their child is at preschool instead of one or all of them having to stay home the entire day. Although a costly endeavour, universal pre-k can ultimately better the economy than if the funds were use elsewhere or not use at all.
The United States Can Ultimately Afford It
A simple breakdown of the United States federal budget for fiscal year 2020 can be found here at thebalance's website. It does a good job of outlining the budget into an easy-to-read format. Of the approximately $4.79 trillion that is the total budget, about $1.438 trillion is set for discretionary spending (non-mandatory Congress-approved items that the President requests). Below is a graphical representation of how this $1.438 trillion was allocated as requested by President Donald Trump and approved by Congress in 2019.
There is no statistical or grammatical error in the graph or in the article on thebalance's website. The defense budget was granted $633 billion, which is nearly 9 times the amount that was allocated for education ($72 billion). The difference in funding is more significant if you factor in additional funding for the Department of Defense, which inflates the total of their allocated funds to $936 billion.
Lowering the total defense budget by even ten percent and allocating those funds to education would allow for a substantial increase to school funding and also give universal pre-k to have the funding it needs while also unaffecting the rest of the departments (aside from the Department of Defense, of course).
As mentioned earlier, the allocation of the discretionary funding (separate from the mandatory expenditures of the federal budget) is negotiable as Congress must agree on it after the president requests it. Thus, Congress is where the effort to implement universal pre-k must be made.
Two local residents of differing backgrounds from Bakersfield, California volunteered to participate in separate interviews. These interviews helped me get a better understanding of how knowledgible an average person is when it comes to universal pre-k and federal legislature processes.
This is the first interview:
This is the second interview:
As is apparent from both interviews, preschool was not a popular option for either of these people as children and neither individual has any significant experience in contacting any of their congressional representatives. In the next section, such a topic will the main focus on the path towards universal pre-k.
We have discussed the importance of early child education as well as the benefits that it can have for the children's families. We have also explained how implementing universal pre-k in the United States can be afforded by the federal government while also having the potential to contribute even more to the economy than what is being used to fund it. So how do we get universal pre-k?
Legislative change is not dictated by solely one person, nor is it completed in a single day. Movements for large-scale endeavours like universal healthcare, prison reform, and universal pre-k require the support of millions of people that each do their part.
Here is what you do:
Contact Your Reps
Every single U.S. representative holds their office solely because we vote them in. Their job is ultimately to serve the communities that they represent to the best of their abilities. Therefore, you can always feel free to contact them by calling their office. However, given the hundreds of U.S. representatives that hold office, it can be a bit confusing knowing who your representative is, and especially so if you live in a big state with dozens of reps like California.
Using a tool like the one found at govtrack, it is easy to find the representatives and senators for an area simply by entering an address. For every representative and senator listed, the site will also list their primary social media account, official website, office phone number, and their next election date.
Give your representative a call. It is part of their job to listen. Tell them about issues you may have with current legislation and ask them to support measures that you want them to support.
Participate in Elections
It is our civic duty to vote. As mentioned above, government officials hold their position solely because they are voted in by the people. If your representative is one whose interests and political stances re similar to your own, then vote to keep them in office. On the other hand, if your representative is one who ignores phone calls and disregards issues instead of trying to fix them, then take advantage of your civic duty to vote them out of office in the next election.
As a reminder, Election Day in the United States is always the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Therefore, the next date of elections is set to fall on November 3, 2020.
Spread the Word
Communication today is easier and more streamlined than ever before. Spreading the word about the importance of universal pre-k and why it should be implemented in the United States can be done by using the now-conventional methods that a lot of us already use every day.
You can talk to your friends, tweet about it, argue in comment sections about it in a civil manner, or direct others to this website and any of the references used (will be listed at the end).
Massive public support is necessary. A government official is not going to publicly announce their support for or introduce legislation for universal pre-k just because a few people asked them to.
The path to change is difficult, but not impossible. Regardless if you feel unconvinced that universal pre-k is an idea worth federally funding, I hope reading this has taught you a thing or two about how important early education can be for a child's life.
The California Department of Education discusses the several stages of development that a child experiences. Such development is divided into age sections such as 'Birth to 18 months' and '3 years to 4 years'. For each age section, the CA DoE describes the behaviors of the child at such age as well as what they require from their parents to reach their peak potential development. Although utilized to show the importance of a young child's development (ages 2 - 5), the CA DoE provides information for age sections all the way up to 14 years of age.
T.D. Tran and J. Fisher from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, and S. Luchters from the Centre for International Health at Burnet Institute describe and quantify the realtionships among family poverty, parents' caregiving practices, access to education and the development of children living in low and middle-income countries. Through studying data collected in UNICEF's Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, which include data about 97,731 children aged 3-5 years from 35 countries, Tran et al. find that children in the most disadvantaged position in their societies and children living in low-HDI (Human Development Index) countries are at the greatest risk of failing to reach their development potential.
The Stark Education Partnership, which is based in Canton, Ohio, looks at the traditional methods of preschool structure while also discussing three emergent philosophical and value-laden approaches to early childhood care and education that allow districts, teachers, parents, and student greater flexibility in meeting the needs of their children. The three approaches, which are labeled Montessori, Reggio, and Waldorf, are compared to the traditional preschooling methods. The Stark Education Partnership present a case for the effectiveness of high-quality early care and education.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) present a policy brief that examines and provides an explanation on what high-quality education is. The NIEER constructs a list of procedural and structural guidelines should be met for a an early child care and education program to be considered high quality. Some examples of the list items are small group sizes, qualified and appropriately-compensated teachers and staff, and sufficient materials and activities to promote understanding and acceptance of diversity. After presenting their case, the NIEER recommends a variety of policies that should be followed to allow for the implementation of high-quality child care and education across the United States.
Sarah Jane Glynn, Jane Farrell, and Nancy Wu from the Center for American Progress argue the importance of preschool and why more investments into early child care and education must be made to allow for increased access to such programs. Glynn et al. also highlight how important afford high-quality child care is to the parents' abilities to balance work success with family responsibilites. Because of the negative consequences associated with forgoing a job to stay home to care for a child or paying out of pocket for the expensive monetary costs associated with child care, it is ultimately better for parents to have the opportunity to work while having preschool paid for or at least made affordable.
Brian McWalters states the need for the United States federal government to promote univeral preschool through a federal competitive grant program. McWalters acknowledges President Obama's previous efforts for country-wide universal pre-k, but dismisses the former president's proposal to share the costs between the federal and states government. McWalters also discusses various topics such as different objectives of universal preschool and targeted preschool systems, equality consideration, and feeral intervention models throughout his outlining of how state level processes should be constructed for implementing universal preschool for all in the United States.
Using the budget documentation available to the public at the official web site of the White House, thebalance creates a brief and easy-to-read breakdown of the United States government revenue and spending from October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, as outlined in the federal budget for fiscal year 2020. A basic outline of the budget is divided into sections for revenue, mandatory spending, discretionary spending, interests on the national debt, and the resulting defecit.
Govtrack is an online tool created by Civic Impulse, LLC that helps everyone learn about and track the activities of the United States Congress. By inputting a physical address in the United States, govtrack quickly provides you with information regarding the representative for the congressional district associated with the given address as well as the two U.S. senators from the state in which the address is located in. Information about the congress members includes their name, date they entered their current office, political party, social media page, official website, office phone number, and next election date.
The official website of the United States House of Representatives publishes a complete list of each of the 435 representatives that are a part of the 116th Congress. Representatives can be sorted by state and district, or by last name. Each listing shows a representative's full name, state, district, political party, office room, office phone number, and committee assignment.
The official website of the United States Senate publishes a complete list of each of the fifty senators that are a part of the 116th Congress. Each senator listing shows the full name, political party, state, office location, office phone number, class, and link to their contact form.