To the Editor:
Re: Your Jan. 25, 2006, Commentary by Samuel J. Meisels “Universal Pre-K: What About the Babies?”):
For the last five years, the Pew Charitable Trusts has supported research and public education efforts that examine the benefits of voluntary, high-quality prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds.
Children need a tremendous range of supports from the time they are born until they go off to school. But years of research have shown that pre-K education is one of the most critical of those supports: It is good for kids, and it is a strong economic bet. Polling demonstrates that the public understands the value of making voluntary preschool available, and people are for it. However, there is still much work to be done before Americans understand and support public investments in services for younger children.
We chose to make the case for preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds because of the solid research on its benefits, and we believed it had the best chance for success. There is strong evidence the strategy is working. In 2004, 15 states increased funding for preschool by over $200 million. In 2005, 26 states did so—raising their early-education investments by more than $600 million and providing prekindergarten to 120,000 additional children. States that have not traditionally been leaders in services for children are making new commitments, because this is a program they can get behind.
In his Commentary, Samuel Meisels worries that high-quality prekindergarten may not be reaching children early enough and that it is not the complete solution to the school-readiness problem. We agree—preschool is no silver bullet. But, as the studies show, it is an important step in the right direction. Quality pre-K makes a significant difference in educational and life outcomes for children.
We share Mr. Meisels’ hope that our leaders will expand their support for children to include not only preschool but also the needs of the country’s very youngest children. To that end, we are joining with a number of partners in efforts to assess the return on investment from many different interventions that reach at-risk children from birth through age 5. This initiative is going to engage economists and other scholars to determine the costs and benefits of various programs for kids and their national economic impact.
The success and momentum of the pre-K movement opens the door to a new conversation on how we can make the healthy development of children a national economic imperative. We should celebrate how far we have come in making early education a reality for young children—and keep pressing until we achieve quality pre-K for all. Our shared victories will only help in building a national commitment to providing the array of supports young children need to thrive.
State Policy Initiatives
The Pew Charitable Trusts