Three years ago I sent my four year old son Bryton, to preschool with a small fortune paid as an initial deposit, or “registration fee,” and monthly payments that were as costly as my car payment, my four year old son happily went to school three mornings a week from 9:00am to 12:00 pm. It was only possible for me to send him to preschool because at then I was not making any other substantial payments. At that time, and currently, I made too much money to qualify for a state assisted preschool program, according to state income guidelines.
But I also didn’t make enough money for it to be possible for me to pay for preschool out of pocket without it significantly affecting my budget for everyday expenses. I literally could not live on my own and pay for preschool. Universal preschool critics think that preschool isn’t necessary for all children, but through much research, I have found there are many benefits that a preschool education has for children.
Preschool should not be reserved just as a public assistance program for the disadvantaged, or a luxury for upper-income families. All children, including those from middle-class families, should have this opportunity. Because of all the benefits which include social and academic skills, both short-term and long-term, oregon should adopt a universal preschool program. Currently, my second son Maddox, should be in preschool Maddox is an extremely artistic boy who can draw almost anything, but his basic language skills are nowhere even close to the level at which my son Bryton’s were at by this age.
I work with Maddox the most that I can, but with my working full time, going to school, and trying to manage housework, I don’t have enough time to teach him as much as I would like, I am terrified that he is going to be behind when he starts kindergarten next fall.
Children are new learning in kindergarten, what use to be taught in first grade furthermore, based on what is now known about children’s brain development during the crucial early years, preschool is just as important as kindergarten (Preknow) By the time children enter kindergarten, they are expected to have basic early reading, writing, spelling, and math skills. By having a universal preschool program available for three hours a day, three clays a week, all Oregon children would have the opportunity to start kindergarten at the same level. At the same time, having this sort of part-time preschool program would avoid some of the negative effects that those against a universal preschool program say would occur. One of the negative effects that some anti»universal preschool activists bring up, is that preschool has been linked to damaging children’s social skills and emotional development. They say that social skills such as cooperation, sharing, and engagement in classroom tasks, suffer (Vanderheyden).
However, studies such as these were done on children who attend preschool for a minimum of six hours a day, five days a week. Many parents would agree this is just too much for a four-year-old. That is why the private preschool structure, within a universal preschool program, of three hours a day for three days a week is great. It’s enough time for children to gain academic skills while having fun with it, and getting the opportunity to grow sociallyi Learning how to pay attention in class and interact with peers is a very important skill that children learn in preschool (Preknow). In fact, according to a survey done by the Us Department of Health and Human Services, children who attended preschool had more advanced skills in areas such as following directions, problem—solving, and joining in activities (Preknow). These are all crucial skills necessary in becoming a successful student. Preschool aids in creating successful students in other ways as well.
Studies have shown that preschool increases high school graduation rates, reduces grade repetition, reduces the number of children placed in special education, and helps children do better on standardized tests (Preknow). Studies encouraged by those against universal preschool, say academic gains fade by the fourth grade (Dalmia). The two states that have a universal preschool program and were studied in 2005 however, Oklahoma and Georgia, are below the national average of reading and math scores in the fourth grade (Dalmia) This is not a result of having a universal preschool program; this is merely a statistic that shows there is a post— preschool curricula problem In fact, in 2007 Georgia began a new curriculum and since then, test scores have been on the rise (Fowler). In general, for children who enter school behind their peers, they typically remain behind.
For example, children who do not recognize the letters of the alphabet when they enter kindergarten demonstrate lower reading skills at the end of the first grade Eighty-eight percent of children who are poor readers in the first grade will be poor readers in fourth grade Seventy-four percent of children who are poor readers in the third grade will still be poor readers when they start high school (Preknow). All children should at least have the opportunity to gain a good head start in education. To those against a universal preschool program, however, that chance is not enough, they feel the cost of a program such as this would be too much and not worth it when some studies show that educational gains fail. They feel that money should be spent on fixing the public school system already in place instead of starting up a new program. Of course it would be beneficial as well to spruce up our public school system, but universal preschool would actually save taxpayers money in the long run.
Oregon’s spending on preschool programs would average around $4000 per each child, which is about oneathird of the average dollars spent on each public school student in k-12 (Preknow) President Obama and others in favor of a universal preschool program agree that the money spent would be a great investment “For every $1 we invest in these programs,” President Obama says, “we get $10 back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health care costs, and less crime” (Weinstein). Statistics do show that preschool reduces crime and delinquency. In one study, children in Chicago who did not attend preschool were 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18 than those who did attend preschool. Preschool has also been linked to lowering rates of teen pregnancy. In North Carolina, a study shows the students who attended preschool had a 26% chance of becoming teen parents versus 45% of those who did not attend preschool.
According to a Michigan study, preschool has also been linked to greater employment and higher wage of 33%, on average, more than those who did not attend preschool. A second Michigan study shows 75% of forty- year—old adults who attended preschool were getting along “very well“ with their families; whereas, only 64% of forty-year-olds who did not attend preschool. These studies were all done on a wide range of people instead of focusing on one group or class to ensure an accurate assessment (Pre-k). The whole “start behind, stay behind” phrase really seems to show its effects in cases such as these. I understand that sometimes it’s hard to look at long- term benefits more than short-term costs, but if there was a universal preschool program, the middle-class families in the state of Oregon, would see both sides of the benefit. We may pay a few more dollars to education taxes, but if that means we can give our children a preschool education and a fair start to their education, it would be worth the few extra dollars.
Not only is preschool a smart investment, but it also helps create responsible adults. There is also concern from those against the universal preschool program that private preschools and in-home daycares would be endangered Keep in mind that there are still many private k—12 schools that are up and running even with the public school system. Numerous families would still want to pay for a faith»based preschool education orjust a smaller private preschool setting. Programs like Headstart would still be an option for the lower income families who still would need all-day childcare and since this universal preschool program that I am proposing would just be for three hours a day, three days a week, private daycares would not be threatened. Families, who need full day childcare, would still need them The only difference would be that every child would have the opponunity to receive a high-quality preschool education for nine hours a week.
The important part to all of this is that every single child in Oregon has the opportunity to a preschool education. The benefits are huge, the cost is small. If children really are the future, we should be doing all that we can to give them a solid foundaLion to start from. This may just be four year olds that I‘m talking about, but this stage of learning is the most receptive. It breaks my heart that I’m not able to send my son Maddox to preschool this year. He keeps saying that he can’t wait to go to school because, “I want to learn like Bryton,” he says. This desire, readiness, and willingness to learn should not be ignored. It should be nurtured and appreciated. Lower income and upper income families should not be the only ones to be able to give their children that experience. For middle-class families such as mine, who earn too much to qualify for state preschool programs, private preschool is an expense that we just can‘t afford without giving up necessities such as food and housing. By providing a high-quality, universal preschool program to all four year olds, policymakers such as you can help struggling families by enhancing children’s future successes.