Pre Kindergarten in new York City for all or just for some

Nothing is a more heated – debated topic these days among educators across the country, than the discussion of the Pros and Cons of pre-kindergarten. You have Educators and political pundits weighing in on one side of the argument, against parents concerns and financial cost raising questions on the other. Inevitably the question in the end, is what decision weighs favorably for the 4 year old in a city wide universal pre-kindergarten? Will it be yet another financial burden on an already overwhelmed economy? Many parents have voiced concern that it may be too early to begin a child’s education.

Critics have decried adding another year is an unaffordable luxury. It would appear so with the allotted $146 Million in new funding for pre-kindergarten programs granted to NY. According to Clive R. Belfield, Ph.D. after reviewing 19 published research studies on early childhood education programs relevant to NY – Later savings of 42% to 62% would end up being paid back to the pre-kindergarten investment. So far the cost has been offset somewhat, the long term benefits would offset that cost even more. Through extensive study pre-kindergarten produces long term reductions in Special Education programs, grade repetition, and increases learning productivity. NY currently has a higher percentage of Special education requirements and grade repetition than National average. Long term foresight would then predict cuts in school spending, an increase in income and home ownership. With a universal pre-kindergarten are we possibly looking in the direction of a future improved economic standing? Over time, would it show a negative effect of poverty? It seems a universal Pre-Kindergarten would allow children in poverty the same chances and choices of their peers they may of otherwise not have had.

So far the financial question has been accounted for, what of the benefits to these young children? The question that is asked repeatedly; is it too much to early? The latest studies according to the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (2000) “From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development” – neuroscience believes the connective pathways in the brain being stimulated in the early years, makes learning in later years more conductive to retain what they have learned far easier. The early benefits of pre-kindergarten will allow for later achievement and social adjustments. Providing early learning gives a child a sense of comfort and security in the classroom environment. Children in this environment have a higher brain development allowing them to retain the ability to learn and reason. The arguments in favor of Pre-Kindergarten staunchly proclaim by achieving emotional development we decrease the likelihood of criminal behavior later on.

“Ludwig, Jens, Sawhill, and Isabel “Success by Ten Intervening Early, Often and Effectively in the Education of Young Children”, state research consistently demonstrates the more a child is exposed to literacy and language before Kindergarten, the more likely they will succeed in reading. Pre-kindergarten provides vocabulary building skills to efficiently master the language required for comprehensive reading. Routines and schedules enable the pre-kindergartner the discipline needed for learning readiness. When you look at the extent of the research in favor of pre-kindergarten,once again you have to remember your talking about a small 4 year old child and the requirements expected of them before even reaching kindergarten…How valuable is the learning process versus allowing a child to be simply a child?

With approval of a universal pre-kindergarten is also the question of how each school district will go about making the changes to make this possible. According to Dover District Administrator for Curriculum and Staff Development Mike Tierney, it’s a question of space to provide a program of such a broad spectrum. Without the proper space, would day-care providers be another assessment to take under consideration? There would be the added burden to find and approve day care providers and securing them with state funding. Tierney has said the day care facilities would not be as comprehensive as state approved pre-schools. Which brings us back to the question, are all children receiving the same benefits and guidelines in the long run?

Currently most pre-kindergarten classes only run for half days. This brings up the burden on the parent to find someone to be there and provide day-care the other half of the day – a hardship on working parents who are required to work full days. Or is the budget suppose to allot for day-care for those parents unable to find babysitting? Would this further delay in the development of the child, having to be in the learning environment for a full day impede benefits, becoming overwhelming? If we are to establish universal Pre-Kindergarten classes, is it to be offered as a parental choice for their child or would it be an enforced requirement?

Parents fear the emphasis on groups, robbing children of individual attention and nurturing they would otherwise have at home. How will children develop at their own pace within the group structure? Children at a preschool level develop at different speeds; some become potty trained before others. Parents ponder if their child isn’t ready or developed enough to be potty trained yet, this excludes them from being able to participate at the same level as other children their age. What of language barriers for children of multicultural homes? Will they be given more or less attention developing from a bilingual family? These are just a few of the questions concerned parents are bringing up on the pre-kindergarten being a requisite. Last but not least, are we downplaying familial roles by intercepting a child into the school system at such a young age? How much of an advantage will these children have versus those who can afford the private sector for their child’s schooling? Are we to expect the same quality in the universal program? We are already in a teacher shortage, how can we expect to suddenly produce the alloted amount of teachers needed for the extra classrooms? If there are not enough teachers wouldn’t this degenerate from the entire principle of having a universal Pre-Kindergarten to begin with?

The research itself allows for a time continuum…we are crediting science against tried and true parenting. From some peoples perspective, it’s a “what if” subject. Your basing this on group statistics, not individual growth. No matter how you weigh the educational value, we cannot promise each child will have the same possibilities and outcomes. If we are to believe the numbers, we are estimating the Pre-Kindergarten program will single handedly absolve poverty and crime levels, bringing economic stability and elevated educational prosperity. Yes, education is the beginning of a life well lived. The question is are we investing all our money on this one program to make a difference? Honestly, doesn’t it seem like a huge weight to put on those little four year old shoulders? It seems the money would be equally spent to fund courses for parental learning as well. Children would benefit with continued learning at home. We have already started decimating the cultural studies in the schools: music, art, theater, to name a few. These programs are just as integral in the overall learning process of the child. We are as a country placing all our eggs in one basket..

Children these days seem to have learned less, even with the emphasize on overwhelming homework. A majority of those of us in our 30’s and 40’s, didn’t start school until we were five and six years old. Yet somehow we managed to do well with the school format as it was. Is it a question of needing to educate our children younger or do we instead need more structure in an already existing school system. Neuroscience research states learning is a social process that occurs through interactions and relationships. Quite a few parents would argue that their children get that undivided attention at home. We already prime our children at such a young age for college. When are children to be allowed the freedom to be just that children. Perhaps that is all the answer we needed, to allow our children to be children….Each of us are left to weigh the consequences of why we are either Pro or Con on this decision.