My Personal Candidate Forum, Chapter 4: Universal Pre-K
4. Do you support the District’s continued efforts toward universal pre-K (i.e. providing free pre-kindergarten, including full day child care) for all 4 year olds in the district? Why or why not?
Yes, I strongly support our efforts toward universal pre-K. In a longitudinal study in Chicago, researchers followed socioeconomically disadvantaged students from age 3 to age 28: ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774305/ ) The control group attended school as they normally would with no additional early interventions or support. The second group attended preschool starting at age 3 and had continued support through 3rd grade. Study outcomes showed a strong correlation with early intervention and increased on-time graduation, decreased felony crimes, increased post-secondary education, and increased income and overall health.
Additional studies prove that all-day pre-Kindergarten can help close the achievement gap at the start of Kindergarten. A University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs study showed that 78% of white students and 74% of Black students were ready for Kindergarten after attending pre-K:(https://www.theedadvocate.org/top-5-unexpected-benefits-early-childhood-education/ )
We currently offer free Pre-K at 8 schools identified as the most high need. We should expand the program, adding more sections of pre-K for 4 year olds, ultimately adding classes for 3 year olds, too. We could implement a sliding fee scale for parents who can afford to contribute to off set our costs, but should never deny any child on the basis of ability to pay. Our district should do whatever we can to provide equitable education opportunities to close the achievement gap so all children can be successful in school and beyond, and early education is clearly proven to deliver on that goal.