NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Universal Preschool Wrong for California

October 19, 2015

At first glance the new California senate bill, the Preschool for All Act of 2015, seems like an investment in the children of California. If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the law would grant access to every 4-year-old from a low-income family to attend a state preschool program by June 30, 2018 as long as sufficient funding is provided.

  • In California public schools, after five years in school, only 15 percent of low-income children are proficient readers.
  • Graduation rates for Latinos are only 76 percent and are 68 percent for African Americans in California.
  • A multi-year study by Vanderbilt University concluded that "economically disadvantaged children who attended [state pre-K programs] did worse by the third grade on most academic and behavioral measures than those who did not."

Perhaps the answer is not to provide more grade levels for students, but instead to invest in helping improve home and child care situations.

  • Notable gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged children are evident as early as nine months old.
  • A three-year old whose parents were college-educated have vocabularies three times larger than a three-year-old whose parents did not complete high school.
  • For 1.8 million children living in California, both parents work and they spend thousands of hours in in child care before entering Kindergarten.

If the goal is to equip children to be academically successful, support should extend to the families and child care providers of California, not to expanding an already broken and unsuccessful education system.

Source:  Katharine B. Stevens, "Preschool for all is no panacea, California," Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2015.


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