Where does Hillary Clinton stand on universal preschool?
By Matthew Lynch
Education is always a hot-topic in Presidential Election years but get ready for it to be one of the premier issues in 2016, fueled by unhappiness about Common Core Standards and the rising cost of a college education. Though those two subjects will certainly take the spotlight, expect another important issue to emerge: universal preschool.
As the demands grow for what American students need to learn in the K-12 grades, policymakers are recognizing the need to start that structured learning process even earlier but not all families can afford the cost of preschool. Universal Pre-K programs ensure that all students have access to an equal educational footing before they enter Kindergarten classrooms.
Right now, more than 40 states plus the District of Columbia have voluntary universal preschool programs in place (mainly for 4 year olds) but how far off are we from a federal mandate?
Hillary Clinton, the first big-ticket Presidential candidate, supports universal Pre-K completely. Like President Obama, she believes that families should have no-cost access to early learning initiatives and that putting this necessary building block in place is not something that should be reserved for those who can afford it. Clinton has a little more oomph when it comes to this push, though, as she also sees universal pre-K as an affordable way for more woman to be in the workplace.
Taking away the financial barrier of preschool means less money going out to daycare and less of an internal debate for women who want to work outside the home, but can’t afford it because of daycare costs. Unfortunately, it is this “babysitting” mindset that turns many people, conservatives mainly, off to the idea of universal preschool. In the minds of some, if women want to work then finding affordable childcare is an individual family problem – not something that the government needs to step in and handle.
For that reason, I do hope that Clinton stays on message about the proven beneficial effects of early childhood education on the children (not on the parents who are then able to work more) and also how the road to long-term equality starts with equal access to education.
Do you think this Presidential election will finally yield a universal preschool mandate?
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