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Obama Prioritizes Universal Pre-School over Full-Day Kindergarten

As a parent, without looking at this with a liberal or conservative viewpoint, here’s what I don’t get: Why is President Obama putting universal pre-school ahead of full-day kindergarten programs?

Laura Bornfreund writes at the liberal New America Foundation (emphasis mine):

An under-examined aspect of President Obama’s new early childhood education plan is his proposal to encourage states to create more full-day kindergarten seats . . . though only after states are able to guarantee access to pre-K for all 4-year olds from low and moderate-income families.

At Early Ed Watch, we believe full-day kindergarten should be more than just a second-fiddle issue. High-quality kindergarten is key to retaining and building upon the advances made in preschool, and even more crucial for those children who were not enrolled in a quality pre-K program. Currently, most states do not require school districts to provide full-day kindergarten. Moreover, states do not necessarily fund kindergarten at the same levels as grades 1-12, providing little incentive for districts to offer a full-day program. Some districts manage to do so by covering the cost on their own, or by charging families for the additional half day. So while the president stated that only about six out of 10 kindergartners have access to a full day of learning, there is no way to know how many of those children’s parents are paying for half that day. Even fewer children likely have access to a full, free day of learning.

The administration should consider multiple pathways to expanding access to full-day kindergarten. If there are additional rounds of the Race to the Top state or district-level competitions, the Department of Education could make providing full-day kindergarten — and funding it at the same level as first grade — a priority of the competition; the same could be required if there are additional rounds of the Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge. Under the School Improvement Grant program, the Department could more explicitly recommend full-day kindergarten as a strategy for turning around low-performing elementary schools.

The rest here.

Again, without looking at this through a liberal or conservative prism and ignoring Bornfreund’s fallacy that public school is “free,” she is correct that kindergarten shouldn’t be “second fiddle” to the president’s universal pre-school scheme.


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