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Pre-K on a Universal Basis: Perspectives From Both Sides of the Debate

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 1/5/2012

Some states have already implemented a universal preschool program, which is a fully funded option for preschool-age children of all income levels. Universal pre-kindergarten is a concept that has been met with both praise and criticism from parents and educators. Here is a summary of both sides.

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    With educational goals and expectations for young children continually increasing, states such as Georgia, New Jersey, and Florida now offer a universal pre-K program. Unlike federally-funded preschool programs, which are typically targeted toward children of low-income families, a universal state-funded option is available to all residents of pre-kindergarten age. As interest in the specifics of this program steadily grows, teachers, administrators, and parents are weighing in with their opinions of universal pre-kindergarten.

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    Positive Views on Universal Preschool

    Many educators and parents of young children strongly support widespread availability of the universal preschool program. Proponents of this idea cite several key reasons why they feel that the concept of pre-kindergarten on a universal basis is advantageous:

    • Research shows that children who attend a preschool program prior to starting kindergarten are better able to develop their social and academic skills than those who do not participate in preschool. Universal pre-kindergarten allows all children the chance to acquire these skills and provides parents with the means to enroll their children in preschool regardless of their financial situation.
    • Because a universal program is implemented through school districts, children who attend this type of preschool will be able to interact and form friendships with their neighborhood peers at an early age.
    • Families who exceed the income guidelines for federal preschool programs yet struggle with affording private programs will have an alternative option for their children.
    • Parents who support the program feel that universal preschool will provide their children with structure and offer an introduction to the daily school routines that are followed in kindergarten and onward.
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    Negative Views on Universal Preschool

    Conversely, some people do not approve of universal pre-kindergarten as an educational system. Opponents of this program also reference a few key points that they believe are valid arguments against state-funded preschool for all:

    • Educators who run private preschools are concerned about the possibility of losing students and having to close due to a universal program becoming available. Because most independently-run preschools are financially dependent on tuition, the possibility of parents choosing the no-cost universal option could significantly affect private providers.
    • Others who are against the implementation of universal preschool are focused on the possibility that the program will be too expensive for states to operate without having to raise taxes.
    • Some people feel that preschool-age children of low-income families should have primary access to a state education program rather than having the opportunity equally provided to pre-K students in all economic brackets.
    • Though universal preschool is designed to increase the academic skills of young children, detractors argue that states which have implemented the program rank low overall in regard to student achievement tests at the elementary level.
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    Whether universal pre-K will one day be an option for children residing in all states remains to be seen. As with all topics of debate in the realm of early education, parents are encouraged to fully examine and research both points of view when considering this type of program for their preschoolers.

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    Reference Links

    1) What exactly is Universal Pre K?--http://www.essortment.com/all/universalpre_rtjy.htm

    2) Why Universal Pre-K?--http://www.newamerica.net/blog/early-ed-watch/2008/answering-jay-mathews-why-universal-pre-k-7949