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ERIC Number: ED498139
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2006-Aug
Pages: 16
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Pre-K: Shaping the System That Shapes Children. Civic Bulletin No. 42
Goldsmith, Stephen; Meyer, Rhonda
Center for Civic Innovation
In 2006, states will add almost one billion additional education tax dollars to their budgets as politicians in more than twenty states consider moving toward a Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) system. Although a spirited debate has taken place over the advantages to children of a pre-K education, there has been little or no debate on how, rather than whether, to offer early-childhood education (ECE). Because of this lack of discussion and study, many states are implementing well-intentioned policies in a flawed manner that could cause more harm than benefit. The availability of prekindergarten education has increased steadily over the past four decades. Traditionally, government tailored these programs specifically for children with various disadvantages, ranging from socioeconomic to learning disability- related, but there has been increasing interest in recent years in expanding pre-K opportunities more universally. A number of factors are responsible for the nationwide surge in funding for pre-K programs, including: (1) Concerns about children's "school readiness" and subsequent academic achievement; (2) Advances in early brain development research, which has shed light on the plasticity and learning capacity of the young brain; (3) Increasing proportion of working mothers and their need for child care; (4) Concerted and well-funded efforts by pre-K advocacy groups; and (5) Economists' promotion of pre-K as an economic development strategy. Education researchers disagree on the long-term efficacy of pre-K, but they do generally agree that children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit most from high-quality child care and early education programs. This paper looks at pre-K options in light of K-12 public education and higher education systems and considers how best to offer early-childhood education services to those who need them most. The authors conclude that education policy and experience suggest that government does more good by establishing rules and assessment procedures, providing information, and funding children, than by using its power to override parental choices by inducing young children to attend government-run schools. Further, when government asserts itself over parents in choices concerning very young children, it intrudes on fundamental family decisions, counter-productively distancing parents from their children's schooling and undermining the benefits of substantial state investments. The current decentralized pre-K system is judged to produce good results. By maximizing the current mixed-delivery system for pre-K services, aligning it more closely with the successful system of higher education than the K-12 system, everyone will benefit. Such a solution ensures that quality community centers will remain in business, poor children will get a better start toward college and work, and parents will exercise important control over and participation in the education of their children. Four appendixes include: (A) Cumulative Pre-K Funding in 50 States and D.C.; (B) Anticipated Funding Change for FY 2006 ; (C) "Governmentalization of Pre-K"; and (D) Florida's Voluntary Pre-K Program. (Contains 29 endnotes and 1 table.)
Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Tel: 212-599-7000; Fax: 212-599-3494; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Preschool Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Manhattan Inst., New York, NY. Center for Civic Innovation.