Who’s in Favor of Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education is something that most Americans can agree is needed. A poll conducted by the bipartisan team of Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies found that 70 percent of respondents were in full support of a universal preschool plan as long as it did not contribute to the national deficit. Sixty percent of the Republicans polled supported the plan, despite its close ties with the Democratic Chief. Want to see who’s pushing to make preschool more accessible and of better quality, and where the movement is taking place? Keep reading.
President Obama has been vocal about his belief that a publicly-funded universal preschool initiative is necessary to give American children an academic advantage before ever setting foot in a Kindergarten classroom—and he has backed up his beliefs, big time.
At a White House summit, President Obama announced that he was fulfilling his promise to expand early education for thousands of children with a $1 billion investment in programs for the country’s littlest students.
Last year, 28 percent of America’s four-year-olds were enrolled in state-funded preschool programs. The new $1 billion investment in learning programs is for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in lower-income communities.
The education summit also highlighted a series of 60-second public service announcements that focus on various aspects of early childhood education. Actors Jennifer Garner and Julianne Moore and singers Shakira and John Legend all narrated a part and conclude with the tagline, “When we invest in them, we invest in us.”
Speaking at the White House Summit on Early Education, the President laid out the details for Invest in US, a public awareness campaign meant to bring attention to the great need for high quality early childhood education throughout the country. The campaign would run in partnership with the First Five Years initiative and its participating philanthropic organizations.
The President said that $333 million had already been committed by private partners, and another $750 million in federal funding will go towards programs like Early Head Start and the Preschool Development Grants.
The President has been a staunch supporter of stronger early childhood education programs with federal backing since he first took office. This move represents more than just rhetoric, however. It shows the President’s commitment to putting plans in motion to give American children, regardless of income, a chance to reap the proven benefits of early childhood endeavors.
“There’s still too many children in America that enter school not ready to learn, including more than half of disadvantaged children. That’s why government at all levels, business leaders, philanthropy and the early childhood community must come together and continue to make investments that give all kids a strong start,” said Kris Perry, the director of the First Five Years Fund.
The first step to having K-12 students who are able to meet the academic demands of the contemporary classroom is to enroll those students first in strong preschool programs — and that starts with making it affordable for all families.
Now when it comes to support for universal preschool, is Obama alone? How much traction is the idea of universal preschool getting, anyway?
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.
According to Bloomberg.com, Clinton visited a YMCA in New Hampshire to talk about her desire to increase funding for head start and other early childhood programs.
During her speech, Clinton took the opportunity to chide Republicans on their lack of interest in improving early childhood education.
“Republicans took care of those at the top and went after the kids. Republicans aren’t just missing the boat on early childhood education, they’re trying to sink it,” Clinton said according to Bloomberg.com.
In addition to fully funding early childhood programs, she wants extra tax breaks for “people who are taking care of kids” and wants to ensure that “every 4-year old has access to high-quality preschool” within 10 years.
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 women 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.
Aside from presidents and aspiring presidents, an increased emphasis on early childhood education is happening all over the country.
Where’s the movement happening?
Members of the White House recently visited California for “Children: The Bay Area’s Greatest Investment,” a Town Hall in San Francisco that celebrated the state’s recent education successes. The event encouraged participants to recommit to doing more for California’s littlest learners.
The San Francisco gathering was one of six held across the United States by the White House aimed to highlight and support President Obama’s early education agenda, including enrolling 6 million low-income kids in preschool by 2020. The event was co-hosted by Early Edge California.
The Obama administration has played a significant role in building momentum for early childhood education by placing it at the top of President Obama’s list of domestic priorities, including Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, and Preschool Development Grants– to name a few.
San Francisco was chosen to host the event because of First 5 San Francisco’s innovative Preschool for All program and its model of what is possible for early childhood education.
U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, the Town Hall’s keynote speaker declared, “Early education is an idea whose time has come.”
Under California’s leadership of State Senator Darrell Steinberg, former Assembly Speaker John Perez and the Legislative Women’s Caucus, early learning is a major focus of the Legislature this session and the largest investment in over a decade was dedicated to early education and development: $273 million.
In September 2014, 500 preschool-aged kids joined the Philadelphia school district at Franklin Square to call for more funding for early childhood education in the city, and the state. Right now fewer than 20 percent of the children in Pennsylvania are able to access state-funded preschool programs — and that’s a number the school districts, and the advocacy group Pre-K for PA, believe must change.
Philadelphia schools superintendent William R. Hite stood before the kids and their parents and called for an increase in the amount of resources and educational opportunities for the kids in his school system, particularly the ones who are Pre-K age. Hite said that the difference between children who are able to take advantage of early childhood education opportunities and those who do not really does show up later in the schooling process.
“Quite frankly, it’s the difference between reading at a third-grade level and not. That’s a big indicator for us for future success of a child,” Hite said.
He added that “every single student” should have access to early childhood programs in the state — not just a handful.
The rally is certainly a step in the right direction, not just for Philadelphia schools, but for all urban K-12 ones that often suffer lower achievement rates, lower graduation rates and higher behavioral problems than suburban or rural settings. Giving kids an early start in academics and the structure of a school setting is important to boosting the success of K-12 students and also to the overall communities impacted by these students.
In New York, there’s a similar emphasis on giving low-income students access to education from a young age. In 2014, during the pilot year of the prekindergarten programs in New York City, the wealthy are the ones with less access to New York City’s state-funded preschools.
The de Blasio administration revealed that 53,230 children were successfully enrolled in the city’s pre-K centers, passing the Mayor’s goal to enroll 53,000 students.
The pre-K system is meant to serve all students, not just those below a specific household income – however most new seats in 2014 serve ZIP codes where the median household income is low.
NYC representatives said this trend might not continue, that they planned on focusing on wealthier communities the next year.
De Blasio highlighted the urgency to fight income inequality in the city during his 2013 campaign, and made the expansion of full-day early childhood education a chief focus of his plan. Upon scoring $300 million in funding from New York in March for universal preschool, his administration prepared a plan to have prekindergarten centers open there doors to thousands of students in September.
Deputy Mayor for strategic policy initiatives Richard Buery says that the goal is to offer preschool to all 4-year-olds in New York City, not just those from the most disadvantaged families.
“We know that every 4-year-old benefits from a high-quality educational experience. Frankly whether you’re from a poor family or a working-class family or wealthy family, that statement is true,” said Buery.
While I agree with the emphasis to urge all 4-year-olds to attend preschool, I think the public dollars should focus on those who cannot afford early childhood education. And this early-education initiative could decrease the achievement gap between those growing up in Brooklyn, and those in the world of West End Avenue.
Under Carmen Farina, the schools chancellor, more underprivileged children would theoretically be taught in the same ways the city’s affluent children are: according to the fundamentals of immersive, play-based, and often self-directed learning.
Nearly, if not all, private preschools in New York City align itself with the philosophies of Reggio Emilia, an education model that gained prominence in the 1990s. His belief was that children need some control over the course of their learning and the ability to express their various languages. Art, music and imaginative play take on substantial roles.
The new prekindergarten classrooms will have different areas devoted to diverse kinds of play. Certain subjects will be the focus for one to three weeks, and dramatic play will be incorporated.
The city’s educators plan to promote an environment of exciting and digressive learning with the intent to reduce the enormous word deficits many children come to school with.
Over 4,000 teachers received training for the education expansion over the course of three days. The Education Department plans to continue coaching the teachers and offering professional development as the year proceeds.
The type of classrooms New York City administration is aiming to build is exactly what the city needs. The incorporation of and focus on guided play in the prekindergarten classrooms will create an environment that encourages learning. This form of teaching, especially in combination with parental involvement, can help students reach Kindergarten readiness and take on elementary school with their best foot forward.
Meanwhile, over in Indiana, a $22.5 million Lilly Endowment grant for early education would build a stronger system and hopefully bring more donations and government investment in preschool learning.
Ted Maple, President and CEO of Early Learning Indiana said, “This is about building a system in different critical areas capable of using and making the most of public investment. This is not about paying a child’s tuition.”
Early Learning Indiana received a $20 million award from the endowment. The money would be used to improve education centers the organization runs and help improve affiliated organizations’ programs over the next five years, Maple said.
In 2014, Indiana funded a $10 million pilot program for low-income 4-year-olds in Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard proposed a $50 million plan to expand access to preschool for low-income 4-year-olds in Marion County using $25 million in city funds and donations.
Lilly Endowment also gave $2.5 million to the United Way of Central Indiana that will be put towards new facilities and used to help improve child-learning opportunities at day cares.
The United Way is in the midst of a decade-long plan to achieve top quality standards at 80 percent of the state’s day cares. When it began, 14 percent were at that level and now, 26 percent of day cares are there, we learn from Ann Murtlow, president and CEO of the United Way of Central Indiana.
I am glad to see Indiana’s dedication and plans to better early education and preschool learning. The Lilly Endowment grant should be a great start to the improvements the state is working to reach. Also, I’d like to give props to Mayor Ballard for his efforts towards expanding preschool access to low-income children around the state.
Finally, in Rochester, New York, Mayor Lovely Warren focused on what tends to happen in summers for young students.
She announced the city of Rochester’s new plan to fund summer programs for young children, support widespread early screening for developmental disabilities and make it easier for parents to register their 4-and 5-year-olds for school.
Mayor Warren’s plan, the 3-to-3 Initiative aimed to help children from age 3 to third grade, the time research shows it’s vital for children to stay on top of reading and mathematics skills. This is based on recommendations from the Early Learning Council she organized in 2014.
The council learned that while there are effective pre-K programs for city families, but prior to prekindergarten and after they leave, especially in the summer months, programming is inadequate.
“We have children growing up in our city every day,” Warren said. “We can’t wait to build a better future for them.”
Warren’s plan promises city funding for programs that stop learning loss in the summer and boost literacy throughout the school year. The cost is about $1,100 per child for the summer programming. Warren stated that this can be done without any additional public money; instead, existing funds will just need to be reallocated.
The city would also support a subgroup of ROC The Future to screen 3-year-olds for developmental delays and provide help as needed.
Parents would have the ability to register for pre-K and kindergarten at city recreation centers and libraries. An online school selection tool will include public, charter, private and parochial schools.
I am happy with Warren’s education plan and excited to see what it can do in the Rochester community. Early education is key, and that she has found ways to make summer programs available to children and support early developmental disability screenings is something remarkable. I hope other Mayors follow suit and that similar education plans sweep the nation.
Is there a trend in favor of universal preschool?
Mandatory Kindergarten in the state of Mississippi is getting a push from legislators who believe it is a step in the right direction of improving the state’s entire K-12 system. Representative Sonya Williams-Barnes, a democrat from Gulfport, is the author of “KIDS Act” that would change the mandatory school age for children in the state from 6 to 5 years old, in essence making Kindergarten mandatory for children in the state.
So how does Mississippi stack up against other states when it comes to the Kindergarten issue? As it stands, there are only 15 states and the District of Columbia that require Kindergarten by law, and there are actually six states that do not even require public schools to offer Kindergarten. Despite the bad rap Mississippi often gets when it comes to student achievement numbers, the state does pretty well on Kindergarten access and has nationally high numbers for attendance. So adding in a Kindergarten requirement would not make a huge difference in the amount of kids who attended, but will just be more of a formality.
But that’s still not enough. In my opinion, the age of 5 is too old to start a formal education. Where Mississippi, and much of America, could really use the legislative boost is when it comes to pre-K education. The Mississippi Department of Education reports that two-thirds of all the kids who entered Mississippi public Kindergarten in the fall of 2014 did not have the base-level skills required for adequate learning.
It may be a few decades before Mississippi, or any other state, requires school for children any younger than 5 years old. However, as a nation, we are inching towards universal preschool. Here is the evidence:
Childcare costs too much for many parents
If you’re a parent, you know how debilitating the cost of child care can be on your wallet. From weekly tuition costs that may rise with little notice to other expenses like gas, food, and doctor visits that add to the weekly expenditure, paying for your child’s care while you’re working may seem like more trouble than its worth at times.
A study by the Committee for Economic Development underscores the point of how burdensome child care costs are for American families. According to the study, “childcare costs consume an average of 7.2% of household income for those with children in paid care” and “parents with children in paid child care pay an average of $143 per week ($7,436 per 52-week year) for child care services.”
That’s just the national average. In other states, the costs are higher
Dependent upon the family’s income, if the home includes two parents, and work schedules, those costs may differ significantly.
But the crux of the study lies between the economy and how it links with the cost of child care. As a continued example, Florida’s economic growth and labor participation rate would increase if more families had “access to the organized child care market.”
Simply put: if more families had a better connection to healthy, organized child care centers with potential aid from the state, we would see production increase at work and a bump to our economy.
Does this situation make the case for having universal preschool? Yes. Granted, the federal government would foot the bill to create the program, but doing this is an investment in the nation’s economy.
Federally subsidized daycare programs are changing
President Obama signed for modifications to the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which call for yearly inspections of daycare centers, and safeguards to ensure that every employee is trained in first aid and has had a thorough background check. Parents would also be given more time to find alternative daycare for children if their incomes rose above the qualifying amount. Before the changes, children could be kicked out of their programs or disqualified from assistance within a month; the legislation would extend that to at least one year.
The percentage of federal funds that daycare centers allocate to improving their programs would rise gradually over time.
This initiative gained bipartisan support, which is unusual, but the changes to federal grant program for child care are a long time coming. We have stringent standards for the teachers in our K-12 schools when it comes to the people we allow on campus – with many schools now requiring state ID from all visitors to check for sexual predators — yet there is not much federally to protect our youngest early childhood students. Even this legislation is certainly not sweeping. It only applies the mandatory checks to child care programs that apply for and accept federal funds. It’s a step in the right direction though.
As the merits of universal preschool continue to gain steam, the rules surrounding how these institutions are run will (and should) get stricter in order to keep students safe and stable in the vital early years before Kindergarten starts.
Childcare centers are leaning towards more educational experiences
Kindergarten readiness is about more than the preschool experience. It starts even earlier during childhood through guided play and learning activities that all build on the collective knowledge Kindergartners will need at the door.
Which is why Learning Care Group, one of the largest early childcare providers in the country, has implemented a new customized path to Kindergarten curriculum for students. The School Readiness Pathway begins in infancy and transitions from age to age, building on gradually on what will need to be learned by Kindergarten. The Learning Care Group is affiliated with Childtime, La Petite Academy, Tutor Time and Children’s Courtyard schools — all 900+ of which will be now use this Kindergarten readiness curriculum.
Access to early childhood education for all students is really important, but it takes more than just access – that education has to be quality.
It is also important that we differentiate between the learning that actually takes place in Kindergarten, and the building blocks that lead to it. Putting a Kindergarten readiness program in place is not the same as making young children hit an academic path before they are ready; it simply means that the developmentally appropriate programs put in place have a structure that places Kindergarten at the end of the journey. I think it makes sense to chart out the learning process from a very young age and not wait to start doing that when Kindergarten begins. For our kids to maximize their learning potential in the K-12 years, we need to get that ball rolling as early as possible.
So with all that said…
Who can benefit most from universal preschool?
Researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs studied 1,000 3-and 4-year-olds enrolled in 11 Chicago schools. Students who attended preschool seven hours a day were compared to those who attended three hour programs, then tested at the commencement of preschool to see if they were socially and academically prepared to begin kindergarten.
The study found 59 percent of the students enrolled in the half-day program to be ready compared to 81 percent of the all-day preschool attendees.
In the fall of 2012, 78 percent of white students were prepared to enter kindergarten compared to 74 percent of black children and 62 percent of Native American and Hispanic students.
Early childhood education advocates say the results show that Minnesota should invest in more preschool programs, and believe this move could help minimize the achievement gap between white students and minority students.
The study’s lead author Arthur Reynolds feels that the state should consider funding all-day preschool programs so all students are ready to learn when they enter school.
Last year, $40 million in funding for pre-K scholarships was approved for low- income families. Thanks to those dollars 5,800 students were able to attend preschool, but as many as 15,000 more students still need access to pre-K scholarships.
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds
By putting more money into early childhood education in Detroit, the crime rate would go down, according to a recent study.
Jose Diaz of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation conducted the study “Cost Savings of School Readiness Per Additional At-Risk Child in Detroit and Michigan” where the findings appear. The research was commissioned by the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation and it suggests that investing in early childhood education could cut Detroit’s crime rate and save taxpayers in the state millions of dollars, according to a story on the study by The Detroit News. The story says that Detroit taxpayers would save around $96,000 for each child who was enrolled in a quality early education program and Michigan taxpayers would save $47,000 for each child.
The figure was derived from adding cost savings to special education, public assistance, childcare subsidies, the victims of crime and the criminal justice system. The majority of the savings would come from the criminal justice system.
These findings prompted Diaz and law enforcement officials to call on the Legislature to invest more dollars in early childhood education to help halt the alarmingly high crime rate in Detroit.
At the present time, only 4 percent of prisoners in Michigan under the age of 20 years old graduated from high school.
Learning begins at birth, which is why early education programs are so important. These programs provide an integral foundation for young minds and prepare children for success at school and in life. At-risk children who don’t receive high quality early education are more likely to drop out of school and more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
I think investing in early childhood education programs is a cost-effective way to promote positive development of children and get to the root causes of high crime in the city. I hope that Detroit can see early childhood education as an initiative that could finally pay off and cut crime.
In other news, the Ké’ Early Childhood Initiative brought together 45 representatives from four American Indian tribal colleges to discuss strategies for better early childhood education and family involvement in the community.
The meeting, sponsored by the American Indian College Fund’s Early Childhood Education program, attempted to “strengthen the role of Native families in early learning opportunities, building culturally-responsive programming with families and tribal partners.” Specifically, the representatives looked at ways the American Indian community could better prepare children for long-term academic success, targeting learning opportunities from birth to 8 years of age.
In education circles, we talk a lot about the way black and Latino students struggle in K-12 classrooms through a combination of cultural circumstances and inequality. The reality is that American Indian K-12 students are the most at-risk of any minority group for either dropping out of high school or never making it to college. The American Indian Fund reports that American Indians who earn a bachelor’s degree represent less than 1 percent of all of these degree earners. It is not shocking then to realize that 28 percent of American Indians lived in poverty compared to 15 percent of the general population, according to 2010 U.S. Census figures. A college education opens doors for a higher quality of life.
The path to college starts long before the application process, of course
Early childhood education has such an enormous impact on how students fare throughout their school careers. It’s the reason why President Obama has called on more states to implement universal preschool programs and has ushered more funding to Head Start and other early childhood education initiatives. There is a reason why an organization with “college” in the title is going back to early childhood to strengthen the potential of future students in the American Indian community. Better quality early childhood education, and families that are on board with supporting kids through the K-12 process, will lead to an uptick of interest in college degrees and a higher percentage of college graduates too.
Why universal preschool isn’t a done deal
As great as universal preschool sounds for kindergarten readiness and for underprivileged populations, there are still objections against making preschool available and mandatory for ALL students.
In Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a number of bills that may preclude to a partial shutdown of the state’s government.
Sounds crazy for a state with a budget surplus of nearly $2 billion is on the brink of a government shutdown is ludicrous, right? Yet, Dayton’s efforts are noble, and they include vetoing the education bill because it didn’t include a plan for universal pre-K.
Speaking to reporters, Dayton slammed lawmakers, saying that some of the Republican politicians “hate the public schools.”
Dayton believes that providing pre-K to young students will contribute to a child’s overall success. But the research is mixed on what pre-K actually affords for students.
Brookings provides information on two studies that produce varied results. One shows that pre-K in New Jersey works extremely well while another conducted in by the National Head Start Impact Study “found no differences in elementary school outcomes between children who had vs. had not attended Head Start as four-year olds.”
Furthermore, universal Pre-K programs tend to benefit disadvantaged and at-risk students the most. Children from middle-to-high class socioeconomic backgrounds do not feel the positive effects of preschool as strongly as their low-income and minority peers. In families where at least one parent can be home with children in the early years, and able to do basic learning activities with them, the impact of Pre-K programs are virtually non-existent by the time the child is in mid-elementary school. Children that participate in play-oriented preschool programs but have attentive parents that expose them to minimal learning fare just as well, or better than, peers who attend regimented Pre-K programs.
And when you add in the results of a study that demonstrates that Sesame Street teaches children just as well as preschool, the argument for the necessity of universal preschool weakens a bit.
Take a look at this: The Washington Post reports that “kids can learn as much from ‘Sesame Street’ as from preschool” because of the show’s focus on “academic curriculum.”
Levine and Kearney’s study found that kids received the same benefits from Sesame Street as they did with Head Start. While other studies have explored the notion of if preschool was needed at all, this one adds another layer to that argument by maybe proving that educational television may be just as vital to a child’s development.
Kearney told the Post that due to the benefits of the study that it may open more doors to alternative forms of education down the road. With the cost of college rising, student loan debt exploding, and educators searching for new and innovative ways to educate students, having something similar to Sesame Street on TV or via the internet may serve a new population of students.
The objections go beyond its effectiveness. For example, some parents are astonished at the difficulty of the material their young children bring home from school.
Critics say it is just a way to add more education jobs, particularly since proponents want to insist that states accepting federal preschool dollars pay preschool teachers at the same rate as elementary ones.
The plan has also been accused of being a federally-funded childcare angle meant to help alleviate the cost woes of working parents along with giving kids a jump on academics. Predictably, this ruffles the feathers of constituents who are already leery of Obama’s so-called “socialist agenda” and the government having too much control over family affairs.
But these arguments are a stretch, and they miss the point when it comes to addressing the worthiness of universal preschool.
In the context of the current demands of our society, it’s worth considering that the U.S. lags behind other developed nations when it comes to academics, particularly in areas like science and math. To compete as a nation on a global scale, this generation of K-12 (or P-12) students simply need to know more than their parents did as children.
In this context, socialization and an idea of what to expect when the school years come along are an integral part of the Pre-K process. Kindergarten used to be an adjustment year for children, but now kids who arrive in these classrooms are expected to know much more. Common Core standards exist at the Kindergarten level, with the expectation that these students will know how to read simple sentences competently, do basic addition and subtraction problems and understand basic time concepts. States that already have tax-funded Pre-K programs test Kindergartners and give the preschool provider the results. In some cases, future funding rests on whether or not the Pre-K program adequately prepared enough students for the academic rigors of Kindergarten.
But let’s look at the big picture for a moment. Here’s what should be considered: would starting kids earlier, across the board, have a measurable impact on the success of American students throughout their careers? This answer comes with a host of complications though. What specific gains will constitute “success” in a universal preschool initiative? Higher standardized test scores? Better graduation rates? More graduates who go on to earn math and science degrees?
Laying out a preschool plan that does not spell out any goals, or steps for achievement, is like sowing seeds haphazardly in a field and hoping something comes to fruition.
The second question should be: If implemented, how long will it take to see potential improvements? At what grade level will universal preschool benefits materialize – or at what age do educators stop hoping to see any positive impact?
Take a closer look
The push for universal preschool is spreading across the nation. However, we’re in an era where most states don’t even have mandatory kindergarten laws. We are not quite there yet.
It’s becoming more obvious that early childhood education is an opportunity for students from low-income backgrounds, and quite possibly an investment in America’s future and economy. It’s great that Obama and other leaders have made a push toward universal preschool over the past few years. I hope to see more early childhood education initiatives pop up even after he leaves office.
Education is a right for all children but the how and when of that learning is muddy. Universal preschool may be the boost American children need to regain some academic ground on the world stage – or it may prove to be a better idea in theory than practice. But despite the shaky evidence for the effectiveness for preschool for all students (especially middle and high income students), I do believe that an emphasis on early childhood education is key to educational equity in America.