To the Editor:
Regarding Samuel J. Meisels’ Commentary,“Universal Pre-K: What About the Babies?” (Jan. 25, 2006), I couldn’t agree more that people who care about prekindergartners also care about what happens to kids before they reach age 3—and they know that both matter. But what the essay misses is the strategic political value of starting where we can win.
Having served in the Arkansas state legislature for six years, I know that lawmakers have a tough job when it comes to making funding decisions, especially about children and education. Here in Arkansas, we mounted a statewide campaign for prekindergarten that has grabbed the interest of people across the state in a way that a broader agenda never could have. We have won high-quality prekindergarten for most of our at-risk kids, which will have an enormous impact.
Does it solve the problem? No. Are we done? Not by a long shot. But by focusing on what we can achieve now, we can gain some real victories for kids. It’s a strategy that’s been successful in Arkansas and in many other states, too. The recent increases in prekindergarten funding in over half of them show that this approach works. It’s a bigger win than we’ve seen in a long time in the children’s arena.
What better way to start getting kids all the things they need? What’s more, in Arkansas this idea of quality pre-K is beginning to spill over into other areas, such as day-care facilities.
Arkansas House of Representatives
Little Rock, Ark.
A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 2006 edition of Education Week as An Early-Years Strategy: Start Where We Can Win