Pushing for Publicly-Funded Preschool

TimeClassroomIf you missed President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address five months ago, you may be wondering why his recent trip to Illinois attracted so many leaders in the world of early education.

Obama spent much of his trip to Fort Knox College on Wednesday reiterating the importance of his proposal to give American children a publicly-funded preschool education.

The president unveiled his goal of providing quality early education for 4 year olds in his State of the Union address earlier this year and he is not backing down on his commitment.

“If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century,” Obama said. “That’s why I’ll keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available to every four-year-old in America — not just because we know it works for our kids, but because it provides a vital support system for working parents.”

Obama’s Preschool for All initiative would secure funding from an increase in the tobacco tax from $1.01 per pack to $1.95.  However, a closer look at the program’s financial details reveal a federal-state partnership to provide low income families the opportunity to gain high-quality preschool with incentives to expand the program to children from all income levels.  Early indications show nearly 2 million four year olds stand to benefit from the publicly-funded preschool program.

Despite the impressive projected numbers, some policy experts say Obama’s idea is not worth pursuing.

“There are reasons to doubt that we yet know how to design and deliver a government funded pre-K program that produces sufficiently large benefits to justify prioritizing pre-K over other investments in education,” Grover Whitehurst, Director of the Brown Center on Education Policy posted on the Brookings Institute’s website.

Other skeptics note that past studies show very little evidence of long-term academic gains for children who attended preschool.  Opponents of Preschool for All cite research which found that by fifth grade, students who attended preschool were no smarter or more social than their peers who skipped pre-K.

What’s your opinion on the preschool-for-all proposal?  Are you for or against it?


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About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.