Public School Is a Child’s Right. Should Preschool Be Also?

Mar 15, 2020 · 255 comments
Megan (cameron)
I think everyone should have a good education.
carol (Shelly)
I think education should be accessible to everyone!
Jimena (El Salvador)
Education, whether it is preschool or higher one, should be accessible for everyone. It's understandable to see that people who have an average or excellent job and can afford their kids' schooling to be against the idea of government-funded care and education. Nonetheless, we need to take into account the fact they do have a job. Unlike people whose income allows them to choose how to spend their time, there are people who don't have the same opportunities and their children are affected. Adults often praise education, but they fail to see that without a single chance not everyone can access it. It might not seem fair to double our efforts for others who can't, but it isn't fair either that because of a lack of employment for adults kids lose a vital part of their childhood. It was mentioned previously that low-income children have less chances to access education, therefore meaning that their parents' status plays a role. If children get to attend public preschool, their supervisors get a chance to work and eventually contribute alongside the rest to fund that education. There are indeed various drawbacks. However, the intellectual efforts made by kids whose backgrounds aren't so well off have shown to higher improvements than those who come from higher-income families. So I do believe public preschool is a vital right for all children to learn equally and a chance for parents to be able to provide better things for them.
Patrik Landström (Linköping, Sweden)
Of course preschool should be the right for every child. The negative consequences by leaving children behind not giving every child the possibility to preschool from, say one years old, is tangible. The school system is far from equivalent as it is. In Sweden we are trying to get every child to our preschools as we see that those children who stays at home end up behind. In the autumn of the year the child turns one year, almost half of the children are enrolled in Sweden. Among two-year-olds, the percentage is 89 percent and among three- to five-year-olds, 94 percent are enrolled in preschool.
Jun (Eugene)
yes, I think all children regardless of race, religion and family income should have the right to go to preschool. parents should have the choice to take up the offer or keep their children at home or pay for preschool. this is just my guess, that those first five years can be the toughest years financially even if you have family to help out. being able to send you child to free preschool can free up time to work. additionally having it equal for all people seems like it will make the class more diverse in race. i believe its important for young kids to be brought up with diversity in their class. if you are raised in a more diverse culture, i feel like you would be less likely to discriminate.
Shipra (NJ)
Yes sure there should be preschool, but attendance should not be compulsory. People should be able to opt out if they don’t want to send their kids to preschool all together.
Ali (Galal)
The moment I saw the title of this article, I was answering the question with a plain yes, I did not think about it except when I thought of the many variables that go with this. First, taxes will be affected, I actually like the idea of not giving any taxes to the poor and increase it with middle and high class. Second, immigrants and this is talking from experience. As an immigrant, you already miss-out on a lot of stuff when you come here. In my case, it was figurative language and typing. Everybody around me had some extra knowledge that I did not have. Now imagine you are in my shoes, you are new to the school system, you are getting used to the language and a lot of stuff is happening that you do not understand. Now imagine you are behind for 2 extra years (pre-schooI). I am going to say it right now, I am one of the more lucky immigrants. This would still suck. Making pre-school a right will make it worse for immigrant children. One last thing about immigrants, what if the parents want to take that 2 year period to teach their child about their own culture? The third major point that I want to make is that pre-school is really useful. In my home country, I took a course for young children, it is not exactly preschool because it was only for math. It was about building skills for math class. Guess what?I grew up as a math lover. taking some the points that I made, I think that preschool should not be a right but rather a choice.
CC (Cass High, GA)
I have a 4.0 GPA, come from a lower class family, and never went to pre-k. However, I did have a loving grandmother at home who prepared me for kindergarten and taught me the basics before I was enrolled in school. When my parents were nowhere to be found, she was right there teaching me and caring for me every day. What should the government do to help kids who aren’t as lucky to have an aiding grandma? What will become of those kids who already begin school behind those who attended pre-k? Many argue that parents should be spending this time with their little ones, and taking responsibility to teach them simple things, like the alphabet. But many people from low -class families don’t have the TLC that is provided when there is wealth involved. Some parents work, some are absent, and some are tangled in their own worlds. The question is, should the government provide pre-k to all children? The simple answer is yes. All kids qualify for k-12 education, so why not Pre-k? There should be a pre-k at every school, and there should be no income requirements for people to join. The government already funds k-12, so why can’t they help to lay the foundation for a successful future? The kids could hop on the bus with the elementary schoolers and attendance could be more flexible than those in higher grades. No kid should be put behind because the government would rather spend their money on fighting useless wars, or any of the other countless wastes of GDP.
Bradford Arthur Liu (Maryland)
@CC Okay, so who's paying that
Blair (Los Angeles)
Sure. And hot breakfast, lunch, and dinner gratis, plus transportation, yearly school wardrobe, and three months paid summer vacation for the parents (or more likely, parent), all funded by other folks who scratched their heads and said, "Maybe we can't afford to have kids right now."
Mr. H. Overdorff (Pennsylvania)
As a board director for a school district in Pennsylvania, I staunchly believe there should not be "free" public preschools available across America. Many individuals do not realize the actual costs and steps that districts go through to educate students in just K-12. The average cost to educate a pupil in the United States is just over $12,000, and the taxpayer funded schools should not have to bear the burden of becoming glorified babysitters. Teacher salary and benefits must calculated into the costs as well, with an average salary being $40,000 when hired on step one. Not to mention curriculum has to be developed, which then must be approved by the district board of education, then further approved by the state board of education. In looking at all these variables associated with public preschool, a district could be looking at designating around 6-12 months for developing a curriculum and spending over a quarter of a million dollars on preschool education. The time-cost aspect of starting these types of projects vastly outweighs the benefits of a preschool program mentioned in the article. I was elected to represent students and taxpayers alike, and I believe my constituents would also agree with values and principals that I stand by.
Joe (New York)
Of course it should. That we are even having this discussion is a sad commentary on the intelligence level of the American people.
Kevin (Colorado)
In the past this newspaper ran a couple of tables that you could take the Federal budget numbers and add or subtract different numbers for programs or proposals like this one to see if the numbers add up. All of that might be out the window in the current crises, but looking back the takeaway is that the on;y place to get the funds for items like this is to change our priorities away from an overkill in defense capabilities and shift our focus to social spending and infrastructure, and IMHO the place to get that money is out of new weapon systems. We can't afford to be the 800 pound gorilla internationally, if our own society is crumbling due to lack of human and structural funding.
JND (Abilene, Texas)
If it's so bad here, why are illegal aliens from around the world beating down the doors to get in?
David (Seattle)
Funny to describe K-12 as a "right" when it's compulsory by law. I love "rights" that are "coerced."
Mr. H. Overdorff (Pennsylvania)
@David I couldn't agree with you more!
Karen Seccombe Meenan (Friday Harbor, WA)
@David It's a "right" because it is available to you, regardless of your income, race, sex, or any other stratifying status. You do not have to exercise that right. Some children, for example, are homeschooled.
Sandra (MA)
Heck, no! How can we possibly pay for what is essentially babysitting? Where are their parents?
David (Seattle)
@Sandra The government wants you to hand over child rearing to others so you can all work, work, work, since work produces tax "revenue" (quoted because revenue that is forcefully taken from you is also called theft or extortion in all other contexts).
Grace (Bronx)
@David Yes, there will be Drag Queen Story Hour.
Curran (madison, Wis)
@Sandra Most of them are working, including 65% of mothers. This was stated in the article. If you wish for them to not work, then fight for an economy and society that allows that. Either way, tax dollars are going to have to be spent.
Rose (Seattle)
I would love to see universal pre-K. However, I would hope beyond hope that we could build something that wasn't "academic". Young kids need to play -- so much more so today with smaller families, fewer people letting their kids play with other kids. Young kids need to learn social kids. They need to move their bodies. They need to learn how to care for themselves (wash hands, feed self, get jackets and shoes on and off, etc.). When my son was 4, we qualified for a free program the local school was doing for lower income families. We turned it down even though we desperately needed the childcare. It was so focused on academics. It's insulting that school systems think that "poorer" kids need something different than other kids, which is almost always something more structured, more boring, less applicable, and more paranoid academics.
Austen Cannon (Dawson High school, Texas)
In the passage “Public School Is a Child’s Right. Should Preschool Be Also?” , Claire C Miller, a respected New York Times author, advocates for universal childcare for preschoolers so that every child has an equal opportunity for success. By providing statistics on how children that attend preschool are better off than children who do not and exemplifying contrasting ways that democratic presidential candidates are striving to achieve universal childcare for preschoolers, Miller prompts her audience to cogitate over the idea of universal childcare for preschoolers throughout the nation. Miller’s assessment on universal childcare for preschoolers emphasizes the importance of allowing all children an equal opportunity for success. For example, low income students have less access to preschools than other students- the low-income students that do attend preschool usually attend inadequate preschools where the education is insufficient- resulting in these students having less success in kindergarten than students who attend adequate preschool. These low-income students often end up having more struggles understanding the content later in school than students that attended adequate preschools because the low-income students are already behind the other students before kindergarten even starts. Ultimately, it is not fair that many low-income children begin behind other children before kindergarten starts just because of their parents’ economic positions.
Adam Mankoski (Redding, CA)
On point, except that children from 2 1/2 to 5 don’t learn through play, they are sensorial learners and can easily learn “academic” subjects through sensorial exploration. What we call “academic” subjects, like writing, reading and math, are just a child’s adaptation to his or her time, place and culture. Age 2 1/2 is the time they are ready for the expanded world outside their family unit, but they must have the right prepared environment and well prepared adults. Maria Montessori was a champion of early childhood education over 100 years ago. Had the world listened then, it might be a more peaceful place.
Yilin J. (Glenda Dawson High School - Texas)
In the article "Public School Is a Child's Right. Should Preschool Be Also?", Claire Cain Miller, a correspondent of Times, asserts that universal preschool should become the norm. By outlining the benefits of universal preschool, Miller emphasizes its importance and asks her audience to recognize the long-term benefits of universal preschool and advocate for its implementation across America. Miller's stress on the fact that "high-quality care and education are important for young children's development" is especially vital in modern society. According to former research analyst Anthony Cillufo and associate director at Pew Research Center Neil G. Ruiz, the immigrant population in the United States is going to increase by 85 million in the next 80 years. There is a necessity now to efficiently educate children earlier to face this increasingly competitive society brought by the population boom. The benefits of preschool are not unfounded either. According to education researcher Suzanne Bouffard, preschool is a relaxing way for children to develop essential skills such as self-regulation, and creativity through a dialogue-rich setting free from the rigid modern education system. In outlining the benefits of universal preschool as a way for children to quickly become accustomed to an educational mindset and succeed in life by developing essential social skills, Miller recognizes the benefits of universal preschool and the need for its implementation to better society.
Steve (Canandaigua)
We barely enforce current K-12 truancy laws (maybe admins should be legally compelled?). Will parents be legally compelled to send kids to preschool?
David (Seattle)
@Steve Of course, coercion is how "education" works in the US. All the best things in life are chosen by central authority and if you chose otherwise you go to prison.
Curran (madison, Wis)
@Steve "The public school analogy goes only so far. Under the Democrat's proposals, governments would not run preschools, as they do public schools, and attendance would not be mandatory." There's the answer to your question.
Curran (madison, Wis)
@David Except every parent has the right to chose between a public, private, charter, religious school, or to home-school their child. The government even provides funding for them, something I don't entirely agree with, but something that still happens. The only scenario where you'd be right is if parents were forced to pick public school or face criminal charges.
Elle (Toronto)
Is there ever a middle ground between the hundreds and thousands of dollars in costs vs. free argument?
Katelyn F. (Dawson High School, Texas)
In the article “Public School is a Child’s Right. Should Preschool Be Also?,” Claire Miller, a correspondent for The Times, holds that an early introduction to education is essential to setting children “on a more successful life path,” however, participating depends on income. By analyzing the relevance of preschool in a child’s life and by describing the idea of a government-funded universal preschool program, Miller asks her audience to advocate for creating a universal preschool program across the United States based on its benefits for children and society. Miller emphasizes that early education is vital to a child’s development but receiving it based on family income. In fact, Professor James J. Heckman’s recent study, Early Childhood Education, at the University of Chicago, addresses effects of early education programs in developing children and the benefit of government financing for the programs. Existing programs lack funding leading to rising cost of preschools. While most parents are aware of the importance of preschool, children often do not attend because their family cannot pay the cost. However, with a government funded program, families of any income could send their children to preschool. Additionally, a public preschool program not only helps children with their education but also with developing the social skills necessary as an adult. Therefore, it is crucial that government funding is increased to support a universal preschool program for children.
DJ Dela Rosa (California)
Education is probably the most important aspect of a child's development. I think having a universal system is a good idea since preschool is a very important foundation for many children. The fact that one out of three children has never attended preschool is abnormal. Preschool helps develop a child's social skills which is very important for their future. To help the future generation, we need to ensure that it is a right for U.S. citizens to have a public preschool for all children.
Adrian Paez (California)
I do believe that a universal system for preschool would be awesome for all children in the United States. With children are in preschool, they will be starting early which is always good. With the democrats trying to help with universal preschool, this is really good for it. With the government tailoring the curriculum rather than controlling the entire school, this is a reason people shouldn't be so pulled away from it. I believe the already-existing early childhood education models in European countries is really good and that is something that is something that the U.S should do. Like I said earlier, it would be really good for children to start early. With publicly funded preschool, it wouldn't be paid and more women would have more jobs and that would be good for everyone.
Raul (California)
Some parents just want what’s best for their child and others just want a safe environment for them while they are at work. Pre-school seems like a great way for these children to learn good habits such as washing their hands, or cleaning up after themselves. They get head starts as well so some parents are saying it is unfair for some children to be unable to attend pre-school.
Daniela Romero (CA)
Public School is definitely a child's right! By law, it is required that every child has to attend school. How does the law want us to do that while we or our families have to pay in order to receive education. One thing that the article said was that "A significant amount of research has shown that high-quality care and education are important for young children’s development, and that low-income children have significantly less access to these programs" This is true but its is also depending if the child does try in school or not, giving the effort to learn or not. Also preschool is a great way for your child to be more involve and active with the outside world instead of being attached to your leg.
DJ Dela Rosa (California)
@Daniela Romero I agree, if a child doesn't socialize with other children during their development, then they may have trouble with social skills during their upcoming years. This might disrupt their learning, since they may be shy to ask people for help or questions.
Adrian Paez (California)
You are right! By law, people should be able to learn. And with publicly funded preschool, children will be able to learn what they need to learn to move on to other grades!
David (Seattle)
@Daniela Romero Funny you said it's a right that you are compelled by law to perform. What other rights do you think require governments to compel. Maybe they should compel us to be armed to support the second amendment right.
Jose Flores (California)
I can see both sides in this situation. Some people want the best for their children and others just want to have a safe place for their children to be at when they work. Pre school is a great way to develop great life habits and school. This means the lag they would be ahead of the average kindergartener without preschool. That is why people are saying that it is not fair.
Katie (The Argument Class)
Most definitely! All though some say it "isn't necessary for kids to enroll in preschool" and instead just go to kindergarten they fail to take in other considerations. In preschool kids strengthen and grow when it comes to social and emotional development. It allows for kids to explore, get an idea of how to work with other kids, along with building up themselves at a young age. Children learn that it's okay to make decisions and do things on their own without parents by their sides. Preschool is really great also for kids who come from a background of a low schooling family. There could very well be not much reading or activities around the house to engage a child's mind. There has been research and studies done to show children who attend preschool at a young age thrive when it comes to both academically and or self behavior. All these things kids learn in preschool allows for them to be set and have a base for kindergarten and beyond, such should allow making preschool a right like public school is.
Adrian Paez (California)
@Katie I agree with your opinion! With children starting early, they will be able to strengthen their thinking with working together and other subjects!
Roberto (Billings)
Free public education is not so much an individual right, it is instead a societal/national obligation. The government, the nation, the culture, is better if every child is educated to at least some level. A nation filled with illiterate and uneducated people is itself impoverished, its is diminished. The founders of the United States understood this and great effort was made to ensure that even the most remote and backward areas (Illinois in the time of Lincoln's childhood) educated their children.
jimkatmi (Mi.)
Kraig (Seattle)
Democrats and Republicans who oppose free pre-school are extremists. They are rigid ideologues. The reality today is that it takes two wage-earners (at least) to survive and raise a family. If we want a society with a future---with children---let's recognize that it can't happen without public support. The candidates & elected officials who oppose this are adhering to an ideology that has no relationship with current reality. They are not "moderates". They're extremists.
Sandra (Australia)
I couldn't agree more. We have only to consider the successes of Maria Montessori at the beginning of the 20th C to understand the impact of preschool education in, among other things, breaking the cycle of intergenerational transmission of poverty. For those not familiar with her work: the Italian slum children with whom she worked from the age of 2 were, by grade 6, ahead of their wealthy peers in essential academic skills. I should add that my career in education began as a primary teacher, later a secondary teacher and finally a legal academic and PhD supervisor.
Rose (Seattle)
@Sandra : I simply don't get this concept that academics is a race. Why are we so focused on who is ahead of whom? What we want is kids to have equal access to education -- and that education should be defined in a far broader way than just "essential academic skills". Kids need to learn social skills, which they only learn in community, with the guidance of supportive adults who believe there is more to learn than the 3Rs. Our experience of Montessori schools, as implemented in the U.S., is that there is very little time for kids to engage socially and to play. Three hours of quiet, non-stop "works" is not healthy for any elementary school children.
Big Cow (NYC)
Let's be honest about what we're really talking about when we talk about any pre-kindergarten public education: we are talking about day care and surrogate parenting. The whole discussion around pre-K anything is avoiding two difficult conversations: how do we get affordable child care for people, and how do we discourage people who do not have the skills or resources to parent their own children to not have children in the first place.
J.Jones (Long Island NY)
To tax individuals with deliberate, redistributive intent is blatantly unconstitutional, as are the federal government’s long tentacles into preschool and elementary education. Despite the misindoctrination of the American public, the functions of the federal government are distinct and enumerated. Only rare and unique circumstances such as war or pandemic justify the temporary expansion of federal power and authority.
turbot (philadelphia)
What is the parents responsibility?
Nelson (Lakeland, FLorida)
I grew up in Buffalo, NY and my Socio/Economic class was lower middle class in both categories. However, my parents stressed education and that made all the difference. I attended a Private Catholic High School that brought together the country club kids with the comparatively poor kids like myself which provided the needed connection an ultimately successful career. The advantages that wealthy families have over those significantly less so are enormous but there are ways out of that if your parents understand what it takes to be successful. We cannot afford as a nation to provide the advantages of wealthy families by passing laws to force institutions to accept the less fortunate and for government to pay their way. Life can be unfair and the good life may come harder for some but you must work your way into that life style as opposed to the government paying your way which will bankrupt everyone and I do not want government subsidized golfers to compete with me for tee times. Yes, I am a white male approaching 70 that grew up relatively poor but never expected my country to pay my way!
Malcolm Kirkpatrick (Oahu, Hawaii)
_New York Times_ : "Public School Is a Child’s Right." If New York law enforcement respected my Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms the way they enforce the right to public school they would compel me to carry weapons and to supply poor people with weapons.
Wayne Sargent (Maine)
Free preschool comes with a hefty price tag. If we are going to increase the length of public education beyond 13 years, wouldn’t the return on investment be better by adding in free public education beyond high school. That is public college and/or career training. It could and should start with two years of community college with credits transferable to a 4 year degree and 2 year career/technical/trade training.
Rooney (California)
Preschool doesn’t matter. And those kids in the picture holding their parent’s political signs when they clearly don’t understand any of it is truly disgusting. Put your kid into whatever daycare or preschool is affordable for you, and don’t agonize any further in it. High school is where it starts to matter. Any parent concerned about their child’s education before that is the same parent drinking the internet koolaid on everything from which stroller to buy to which bottle to buy to which crib to buy to which stuffed animals to buy, and therefore should be ignored completely. Take stock in the billions of parents before you who never considered any of this nonsense, and who’s children resulted in every achievement in human history before you. They were totally fine without overthinking preschool. So just stop it. It’s legitimately insulting to the species.
Mary Smith (Southern California)
@Rooney The difficulty is the fact that there are many who cannot afford daycare or preschool, yet both parents need to work. Thus, their children may be cared for by family members who are too burdened caring for too many to be able to provide the intellectual and educational stimuli that is needed. The very stimuli available to the children of those who are able to pay for daycare and preschool offered by trained professionals. By high school these children are woefully behind their better off peers. This contributes to the great gaps in achievement we see in all aspects of our society today.
Malcolm Kirkpatrick (Oahu, Hawaii)
Gandhi wrote that parents are the natural teachers of their own children. Richard Arkwright, Cyrus McCormick, Thomas Edison, Bertrand Russell, Hou Yifan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, and Simone Biles were homeschooled. Across the US the correlation (age-start, score) is positive, where "age-start" is the age at which States compel attendance at school and "score" is NAEP 4th and 8th grade Reading and Math score. Early education may confer benefits. Early institutionalization is counter-indicated.
Ann Jun (Seattle, WA)
If Republicans are against abortion, they need to be willing to support the child all the way through, including preschool. It’s good for society as a whole. Who do they think is going to pay for their retirement in old age?
Martino (SC)
@Ann Jun Perhaps they really want the cat to eat our kids after they're born, but not before. I didn't receive any preschool education and my very first organized or structured learning came at age 6 in first grade as opposed to my siblings who all attended preschool beginning at 3 and 4 years old. It was because the school district was in transition those first few years and the money just wasn't available while the elementary school was being built or perhaps some other handy excuse. Non-the-less I was the one who struggled all the way through school from first grade all the way through college while my siblings all did far better. Back then, 1966-1977 my poor grades and other problems I encountered were always chalked up to me being merely too lazy to want to learn. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that from first grade onward I was always behind my peers academically. I just never could catch up with the kids who went to preschool and kindergarten and by the time I went to college I was still behind. Now at 60 most everything I've learned has been self taught. I'll never blame my parents because they were never quite aware of the hardships I faced as a child. I can very well recall hearing my teachers and the school principal telling my mother her son was just too lazy.
GBR (New England)
I mean, all I seem to hear about is how woefully underfunded many of our K-12 schools are. Shouldn’t we solve that problem before adding on yet more grades ( pre-K ) we need to cover?
spindizzy (San Jose)
Surely the best care is provided by the parents? Why would you rip a young child from his parents' arms and send him to a strange care provider? Do you care more about creating another government program than about what's best for the child? And is it wrong to say to prospective parents, hold off on having a child until you can look after the child on your own instead of shuffling the child off onto some organization, many of which have troubling records? I know, I know, liberation, freedom, elitism etc. But the child also has rights.
Max Shapiro (Brooklyn)
if public school was a right, then how can minors be suspended or expelled? A right can't be suspended or nullified, or is my understanding of Right misguided?
gf (Ireland)
We have 5 hours a day of free preschool for children ages 3 and up and would highly recommend this as it was very good for kids to learn social skills and prepare for primary school.
Langej (London)
Yes. It should be have a right to a nanny from age 3 months and preschool from age 2. Mothers have better things to do.
naif (Franklin, Tn)
Preschool a right? NO! It is past time for people that want kids to start having some responsibilities. Let parents pay for the cost of preschool or don't have kids. The taxpayers already pay for K thru 12th and that is ok. Taxpayers also feed a large quantity of them breakfast and lunch. There is more, but I'll stop.
Jennifer (NC)
Good schools are essential to our security, culture, economy, legal system, and government. Perhaps we should think about creating excellent daycare centers for 2 to 4 and then beginning public education at the age of 4 and ending at 16, at which age kids can choose among a variety of well funded and well developed public technical/trade schools. For those who want a traditional bachelors program, public colleges and universities should be made free. And at some point, two years of public service should be required. Better education correlates with better life long health. Hence we could expect to see reductions on healthcare costs. Oh the things we can do to make our lives better are not hard; rather they require will and heart, two things Americans have!
Rob (Portland)
If only it could be done by fiat at a president's order. Without the congress, Sanders would never be able to achieve any of his biggest policy objectives. He's already lost the primary.
Not Pierr (Houston, TX)
Yes, it should be a right. It’s more important especially for the poor to develop discipline and school,skills and allows single mothers and lower class to work and keep more of what they earn. They will spend the money elsewhere, which will boost the economy. Everyone wins.
Rhonda (Pennsylvania)
I don't think preschool should be mandatory, but I definitely think it should be available to all. These days, kindergarten is similar to what first grade was like 30 years ago. Children who are not prepared can be left behind, especially when there is so much emphasis on testing. However, I do worry that if children are forced to go to all-day preschool programs with rigid schedules, it could be detrimental to their well being (at least for some children). Children have much less play time in the form of recess or gym class today as far as I can tell, and teachers seem willing to keep kids in at recess for remedial work. I believe kids need time to socialize and let new ideas settle in over regular breaks, and sometimes benefit from less, rather than greater, rigidity in scheduling and expectations. And for the very young, learning must be disguised as fun, not just mixed in with fun moments.
Reader (NYC)
@Rhonda Couldn't agree more. I remember my kids in preschool having to write their full names on everything and the emphasis on reading prep. For kids who aren't ready, that can really turn them off. I agree that preschool should be available to all, and that kids should spend this time playing, socializing, talking, coloring, climbing, building -- doing everything possible to get their motor coordination, imaginations, self-control, and social skills ready for the ridiculous academic onslaught that is today's kindergarten.
Kraig (Seattle)
A better world is possible. Other nations are already providing pre-school for all.
John Brown (Idaho)
I did not get to attend Pre-School but I did attend Kindergarten for a day and then refused to go back. I much rather stay at home with my toys and my dog. Father insisted, that evening,in an irresistible manner that I would be going to school for the next 13 years - which seemed like a life sentence and felt like it. Yes, of course Child Care/Pre-School should be paid for from the Public Weal. Why would anyone say otherwise ?
Heidi Thorsen (Crozet, VA)
I do not believe daycare should be the default option. More mothers should be enabled to stay home to care for their children. Let’s implement a universal income payment for new parents, and let them choose whether to use it for support as they stay home and take care of their children or to apply it to daycare. Women should have choices.
Lawyermom (Washington DCt)
I completely agree that the money should go directly to the parents. I was a legal secretary when I had my children. I worked second shift at a big NYC law firm so that I could care for the kids by day, while my husband had them when I went to work. This was not because I wanted to be at a job, but because we needed the money. I think we would all have been happier if I could just have stayed home with the little ones. A subsidy would have allowed us to do that, and I would happily have provided my kids with the knowledge they needed to succeed in kindergarten.
Martha Shelley (Portland, OR)
I'm 76. When I was a child my father could support a family of four on a take-home pay of $70/week. My mother didn't need paid employment. We lived in a 3-room apartment (kids slept in the living room). In the summer, my parents rented a bungalow in the Catskills. We had to supply our own linens and dishes, but my mother, my sister, a male cousin, and I were there from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. My father came up for weekends and his 2-week vacation. The purchasing power of the American worker has declined vastly since then, and the wealth of the 0.1% has increased vastly. Ordinary people can never afford what we had then, so both parents need to be in paid employment. And the kids need preschool as well as public school.
Bailey T. Dog (Hills of Forest, Queens)
It is a long time ago, but my daughter had a couple of years of pre-school before kindergarten. As did many of the kids in her school. But some had none, and they invariably fell behind. Now, my nephew's kids, my grand-nephews and grand-niece, started kindergarten having had not only pre-school for socialization but their own tablets for self-instruction. They started kindergarten already knowing the alphabet, how to count, and how to do simple addition and subtraction. It is hard for poor children to compete if they go to kindergarten as their first exposure to education.
@Bailey T. Dog , I'd agree with plans to provide free or low-cost childcare for working mothers whose income falls below a certain threshold. Households with lower income have higher birthrates. But this piece here is calling for free childcare for all, including those who can afford it easily. It is time to stop the well-to-do to get benefits in the name of everyone else (how much more does it cost the government to send your child to New York Kids Club than to a church-affiliated daycare in rural Minnesota?) Resources are limited, and let's give priority to the working poor so that their children will have equal opportunity.
Kj (Seattle)
@JY Did you read the part of this article that explained that means tested pre-K has less positive impact on kids than universal pre-K? If the point of pre-K is to benefit kids, let's max out the benefits.
Dobbys sock (Ca.)
@JY Universal programs are much harder to cut. When they become means tested, they always breed dissent and anger; and are always cut. The paltry expense of helping to provide for wealthier citizens is a drop in the bucket compared to the lower class in need. We believe in equality for all and the same services for all, or we don't. Having a two tiered services (or more tiers) becomes inequality quickly. Lets treat EVERYONE the same.
Tar Heel (Wake forest)
Pre-K is expensive for those of us who have had to put our children in it because we are two working parents trying to make ends meet. We live outside of Raleigh, NC and we paid about $1000 a month. My brother and his wife live in NJ and he paid almost $1300 a month for Pre-K. Pre-K is great for two working parents who can afford it. Pre-K can be really out of reach for the lower middle class and below. We have to find a better way to help.
LN (Pasadena, CA)
My only son started a half day play based preschool program at 2.5 years old. He’s almost 4 now. The social skills he has developed are invaluable... how to be a good friend, how to have empathy for other children, how to listen to and communicate with adults other than his parents. It may not be everyone’s choice, but it should always be an option.
Randallbird (Edgewater, NJ)
Clearly. Also, it creates jobs on poor communities. And it offers the highest return on investment of any government program.
Burgess G. Dillard/The Cameleon (Trenton, NJ)
No, preschool should not be a requirement of the government, to provide. Children should be raised by their "CORE" family until the age of five years old or to the age of kindergarten. By core family I mean by both parents. The parents are responsible for their off spring until they learn the basics of socialization. No preschool is going to teach a kid the correctness or manners for getting a long in society. Did not read your article , to long. Just commented by reading the topic. The Cameleon
NH (Boston, ma)
@Burgess G. Dillard/The Cameleon Did not read your article. Well that shows - you missed the whole part about the huge difference in cognitive skills between kids who go to preschool and those who do not - buy staying home with their uneducated parents.
NH (Boston, ma)
It makes no sense to have the youngest parents with children aged 1-5 or so to have to shoulder all costs of child care and to lift it only when their kids start going to school. (I'm pregnant with my first and already booked day care - 29K/year!)
I'm so glad I did not have to go off to day care .. I'm sure it was difficult for my parents (5 kids) ... but, they put us first. I made a choice not to have children -- although I helped out my siblings ... We seem to have lost most parenting skills .... it's someone else who caused the problem. Ask any teacher -- parents are not involved ...many don't know how to be involved and they blame everybody else. This is not going to end well .... kids are not plants
Jennifer (San Francisco)
@GT Kindergarten teacher here! I am delighted to tell you parents ARE involved. It's hard when they're working multiple part-time jobs with no benefits and no fixed schedules so their kids can eat. It's rough when their extended family is all doing the same! In fact, all that they're doing to keep their kids warm and fed makes it impossible for them to get as much time as they'd love to spend with them. If you want to suggest that parenting has changed, you need to acknowledge that work has also changed. Those changes have been catastrophic for families. And that's not even getting into how wages have fallen when adjusted for inflation. Your parents made sacrifices, I'm sure. Today's parents make many more.
J Gunn (Springfield,OR)
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, mothers stayed home and tended to their children. Why do we need 2 incomes to support a family especially when the children are small? Maybe the issue isn't unpaid child care but too low of a family income.
Mary Smith (Southern California)
@J Gunn In certain parts of the country two incomes may not be needed and one parent, the one who would like to, can stay home. However, where I live that is rarely possible. With rent or mortgage at $2,000+/month, utilities (gas, electric, phone, internet), gasoline, health insurance at $800-1,000/month, car insurance, car payment, student loan payment, and groceries that is not feasible, especially if you make a low to moderate income.
irene (fairbanks)
We are still stuck in the 1950's when we think of 'school'. We really need to rethink educational models entirely. For an excellent out of the box resource I would recommend checking out the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.
kerri (lala land)
if people don't want to take care of their kids anymore, why have them
Frank Sterle Jr (White Rock, B.C.)
A healthy future should be every child’s foremost right. By not teaching child development science along with rearing to high school students, is it not as though societally we’re implying that anyone can comfortably enough go forth with unconditionally bearing children with whatever minute amount, if any at all, of such vital knowledge they happen to have acquired over time? It’s as though we’ll somehow, in blind anticipation, be innately inclined to fully understand and appropriately nurture our children’s naturally developing minds and needs. A notable number of academics would say that we don’t. Along with their physical wellbeing, children’s sound psychological health should be the most significant aspect of a parent’s (or caregiver’s) responsibility. Perhaps foremost to consider is that during their first three to six years of life (depending on which expert one asks) children have particularly malleable minds (like a dry sponge squeezed and released under water), thus they’re exceptionally vulnerable to whatever rearing environment in which they happened to have been placed by fate. I frequently wonder how many instances there are wherein immense long-term suffering by children of dysfunctional rearing might have been prevented had the parent(s) received some crucial parenting instruction by way of mandatory high school curriculum.
Stephen Rinsler (Arden, NC)
We should start with “preparents”. In school, education programs to BOTH prepare adolescents and young adults for being parents, to define when one is ready to be a parent and how to avoid unplanned pregnancy. Then follow up with good support for couples and parents of any age to help them manage BOTH their “regular” responsibilities as well as those of being parents.
AACNY (New York)
Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor de Blasio have resisted closing the public schools because schools have become surrogate caretakers/parents. We should think very carefully before we also make these preschoolers the responsibility of government, because that is where this will lead.
John Locke (Amesbury, MA)
I could be wrong but I believe that some time ago the Supreme Court ruled that a public education was not a right. It's not mentioned in the Constitution. Could someone else comment on this?
Montreal Moe (Twixt Gog and Magog)
Rousseau was still breathing in 1776 his Social Contract was still celebrating its Bar Mitzvah. We are fifty years into our Enlightenment and figuring out rights and privileges. Access to healthcare, access to broadband, access to education, access to welfare access to daycare are rights not privileges and are subject to the stipulations of the contract. Contracts are two sided and must be quid pro quo unlike in the USA are a mechanism for assuring reciprocity not just personal gain. I am wondering whether after November our contract with the USA will be null and void and we can start signing contracts that are all beneficial to both signatory's citizens. I don't know if America is ready for any rights even the ones it currently enjoys. NYC is the most extensive Public Health Department in The USA and it couldn't even put on a tax on sugar. There is no free lunch and even liberals don't want to pay the price of extra healthcare for people's soda habits. Our Social Contract guarantees Daycare but daycares must not allow God into their midst. I know we are not yet fully there but people my age remember when the gods dominated all our space. Human Rights come at a price our's is that the separation of church and state means exactly that. If you don't want your children taught math and science and the world is 4.5 billion years old don't ask for public monies. We need our children to understand our mutual dependence in a liberal democracy and its rewards and sacrifices.
Genevieve (Brooklyn Nyc)
Bernie Sanders has a plan for universal pre pre k. I support this!
Curran (madison, Wis)
So did Warren, but everyone seems to forget about her
The world already has an overpopulation problem. I think the better policy is to support people who are already here, not put in policies that encourage younger people to procreate within the next 10 years.
Curran (madison, Wis)
Population growth from now on will be concentrated in developing countries, rather than developed countries which already have low birthrates. The world would prevent a lot more births by providing easy access to birth control and universal k-12 education in developing countries, instead of further reducing births here, which hurts economic growth and society by reducing the amount of available workers and increasing the amount of people eligible for government aid.
M (CA)
Pre-K is babysitting, which I should not have to pay for.
dandnat (PA)
@M I taught at an inner-city high school for nine years. 92% of the students qualified for free or reduced breakfast and lunch. One of my pregnant students said to me, "Miss, my doctor said I should read to my baby, but why?" We will pay far more for this child as he goes through life than we would if we paid to get him ready for kindergarten.
Kathy (Chapel Hill)
No!! The preschool my sons went to, at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, during which a part of the time I was “chair,” was terrific: we had certified teachers, a good Board, and so on! Maybe when folks get behind what was then a private, family-supported entity, then opponents or skeptics might rethink their positions! Volunteers were really important. Are such volunteers even still out there??!!
Rhonda (Pennsylvania)
@M Pre-K is definitely not babysitting. Programs are run by early childhood educators and follow an age-appropriate curriculum. I would argue, it's the "new kindergarten," and today's kindergarten classes are similar to what 1st grade was like when I was a child (when many children went to neither preschool nor kindergarten). I'm not sure what you mean, though--babysitting should be free, and pre-k, not?
Jeffrey Cosloy (Portland OR)
Goodbye to the Mom & Pop daycare down the street. The feds will come in and qualify people who haven’t met an infant since their own infancy.
Ash (Brooklyn)
Most people want a licensed daycare where workers have been background checked and fingerprinted. I would never send my child to a “mom and pop” shop unless they were family members.
Brenda Snow (Tennessee)
I would refer that we start educating children when their brains are ready, about age 7, and drastically improve the education we provide. Schools are worse than in previous generations, and children learn less. We would do better to study countries with successful public education, and emulate them.
Gagnon (Minnesota)
It absolutely should. It's ridiculous that anything Sanders proposes is still being deemed too "radical" by American commentators. This stuff is incredibly basic and commonplace everywhere else in the western world. The centrist/neoliberal Democrats are standing against social progress at a time when it's badly-needed. As far as I'm concerned, Biden and all the other corporate "moderate" Democrats like him are just as complicit in preventing reform as the Republicans at this point.
Just Ben (Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico)
First, the Republicans do everything they can to suppress working people--busting unions, maintaining an absurdly low minimum wage, undermining public transportation, creating a drastically unfair tax regimen, blocking housing construction, and so forth. That makes it imperative that both parents work in many or most families with children. (Anyway, if both parents want to have careers, they should be able to.) Then, they cry: one parent should always be home with young children. In plain English: Mothers, don't work! (We don't want you competing with us patriarchs for our jobs. We don't want to be taxed to pay for your kids' child care. Above all, we don't want our kids mixing with black and brown kids, before we get to indoctrinate them with our racial prejudices.) Does anyone else see that this is a mug's game? does anyone else see that, if we really want to solve social problems such as child care--never an easy thing to do, even under the best of circumstances--the first step is to throw every Republican office holder out into the street?
robW (Denver)
Definitely start at birth. That way those who manage the system can start programming the way the little ones will think from the very beginning. Instead of the old DuPont saw "Better living through Chemistry" we can have "Better right-thinking citizens through cradle-to-grave social programming." Just think how much better, uniform, and efficient we would be with state-mandated curricula that begins at birth!
Tom (Bluffton SC)
According to the Supreme Court "San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriquez", a public school education is NOT guaranteed by the Constitution. The headline of the article I believe is flawed.
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
I think there was a practical reason the US avoided pre-school as a public option. You can't insure all children are reliably potty trained until around age four. You can't teach a class of 30 students when the teacher needs to stop and change a diaper. You need more teachers per student than a normal classroom. A point which is antithetical to conservatives who don't like paying for any public teacher. They hire a nurse. Effectively the pre-school equivalent of private schools and tutors. For people with resources, the overall public health outcome is secondary to their own child's advancement. There's a perverse incentive that makes some wealthy parents feel that making other children do worse actually help's their own child do better. The feeling is part of the American psychosis. Personified in Trump but also emblematic of the Democratic shift toward Biden. There's an entire generation that doesn't see helping EVERYONE as mutually beneficial. It's always a special needs case and you're apparently never the one with special needs. Why can't we just say we don't care if you're wealthy or not. If you want to use public pre-k or public college to save a buck, go for it. If you want to engage in the elitist rat race, that's fine too. You'll just pay twice. That's your problem, not mine.
Vicki Hensley (Illinois)
It should be free, as should daycare & optional up until age 4.
Unbelievable (Brooklyn, NY)
It should absolutely be a right is the richest greatest country in the history of civilization. Blah blah blah. But, alas, we must make more bombs! We must spend 800 billion more on the military next year and not worry about our children. Considering we rank very low in education amongst industrialized countries, it still doesn’t seem important to most Americans that we educate our children early in age. So, my fellow Americans, more bombs and forget the kids.
HistoryRhymes (NJ)
The rub in all this is “high quality”. If it’s “high quality” it’s going to cost a fortune and have wait lists, have interviews for parents etc. Good luck with that.
Daphne Key (Raleigh, NC)
I have been an educator my whole life. All children should have access to free early childhood education; they and their parents would benefit. Our society would benefit. Anxiety over child care would be reduced for parents who work, and their children would have an opportunity to learn at a most critical developmental period. The immediate and long-term benefits to our society would be enormous. The educational playing field would finally be leveled. I would be thrilled for my tax dollars to be spent on universal pre-k education; it would be the wisest investment this country ever made.
Joe Game (Brooklyn)
The word “right” has been abused and stretched thin. Do we have a “human right” to medicine and to medical procedures that didn’t exist 20 years ago? These are human rights? Do people have a “human right” to high speed internet access that didn’t exist 20 years ago? Without capitalist investors and incentives these things would not have come to exist. Same for the future things we will come to enjoy. Until a few decades ago, preschool was also unheard of. Now it’s a “right”? The country has a right to intellectual honesty. It would be nice if we had unlimited resources and lovely things would magically appear. Pray for utopia or be realistic but don’t spin your wishlist as a “right”
orsmo7 (australia)
@Joe Game Here in Australia we have a "right" to healthcare, subsidised childcare and pre-k, and plentiful sick leave and vacation. I'm happy to report that I live a very comfortable middle class life as a primary school teacher despite paying into these institutions through my taxes (which aren't that much higher than when I lived in the US with zero benefits). Australians think Americans are hilarious: You actually can have your cake and eat it too.
Honor senior (Cumberland, Md.)
No! "Pre-Paid" Pre-School is but a sop for those who should not have children until they are able to care for them; expensive Baby-Sitters! One more example of the unequal differences between Males and Females!
Medea (San francisco)
We need parents, two of them per child, who are committed to raising the children they are responsible for bearing.
Greg (MA)
Bernie Sanders wants free everything for everybody (except billionaires), from birth to death.
S.Einstein.” (Jerusalem)
Pre-school experiences.Diverse in content. Which should be factually underpinned. For fostering and enabling learning basic skills. For healthy wellbeing.Coping.Adapting and functioning.As personal Identities, and ranges of health- promoting, sustainable, behaviors are created.In a necessary environment with its ranges of available and accessible opportunities. To become more and more aware of... To perceive both what is.As well as to develop imagination. To sense with all of our human senses. To think about...including implications and outcomes. Even when we can’t spell or sound-out these words. Concepts. To feel a range of emotions. In diverse roles and environments. Without their acculturated -/ - ascribed valences. To judge and to make plans. Decisions. To “Fail better” as we choose to carry them out. As best as we can. Or choose not to. Because.. To stop. To start again. Or not. To explore “accountability,” to Self. To others. Pre-school experiences as opportunities to BEcome. To BE. To have BEen.To practice BEing part of additional diverse communities. To experience and strengthen mutual trust.Mutual respect. Mutual caring.Mutual help. An opportunity to become acquainted with, and experience,realities-unspelled-interacting,ever-present, dimensions. Daily uncertainties. Unpredictabilities.Randomness. Outliers. And lack of total control;no matter what one does. Wants. “Needs.” Adequate-expressed, or not. Preschool, post-birth, life preparation.YES!
avrds (montana)
Seems as if all proposals to actually invest in the future and well being of this country are not "politically viable." What a terrible thing to admit about our fellow Americans and those who allegedly represent us and our families in Washington. If there's anything that this horrific pandemic has demonstrated -- although apparently not to Trump supporters -- is that we need large-scale programs to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. Even the richest among us cannot necessarily protect themselves from the poorest among us when it comes to the spread of a highly contagious disease. Just ask those partying under disco balls as if it were 1980 down at Maralago. I've got mine and the rest of you are on your own when it comes to child care, education, healthcare, you name it, is no way to run a country.
Should the government care about your well-being from the moment you are born to the moment you die? My intuition is to say yes, because we the people are what constitutes the country. Our well-being is the government well-being.
John Doe (Johnstown)
The earlier kids bond to the State probably the better.
pkvls (MD)
The parents should raise their children at that age, not the government. This is a tool totalitarian regimes use for social engineering, to indoctrinate young minds into their politically correct thinking.
Philippe Egalité (New Haven)
Of course it should. Don’t we want our fellow citizens to be healthy, well-adjusted, and well-educated? Can’t we finally just acknowledge reality: it is far cheaper to encourage and foster productive members of society than pursuing any of the “pull yourself up by your own bootstrap” nonsensical ideologies, which all end up with poverty, prisons, and high costs to run prisons and deliver healthcare at the ER etc. Even if you are entirely selfish and care not a wit about your fellows, you will be both safer *and* have more money in your pocket book if we take care of our children and one another. Wash your hands and stay home.
Alan (Livermore)
He should move to California, he'll fit right in. We're the 'nanny state'. When are one of these 'progressives' going to come out in support of limited family size so the children that are born will have more of a chance in life?
Sang Ze (Hyannis)
Give them a B.A. when their birth is recorded and take the pressure off parents and the overblown kindergartens collectively called "higher education." We all know the truth: the USA has no respect for education and the educated. It is only devoted to the accumulation of money. The trash sticking to most schoolyard fences sums up the country's thoughts on the importance of education: it's garbage.
skyfiber (melbourne, australia)
We should push for pre-natal education. Might muddy the waters a bit when it comes to abortion though...hmmmmmm.
smarty's mom (NC)
total poppycock? Children have no rights, just what ttheir society decides to give them
J c (Ma)
I don’t mind inequity among adults, but all children should have an equal opportunity ar success. Tax inheritance at 95% and use that to pay for universal and equal primary education for all kids. Make children of the rich work as hard as children of the poor to -earn- their success. Anything else is immoral and everyone knows it.
Tom Racanelli (California)
as someone who has worked in the childcare industry for over 30 years now, I believe it should be a right. Children deserve to be placed first in our society - not thought of as second-class citizens. By looking at them as not needing to be taken care of until they're older, it shows a warped value system in our country. People may argue that it maybe it's not the government's responsibility. Well the obvious answer to that is if it is private citizens responsibility, then why are they so slow to act? It is high time that we realize that the more funding that we give to early childhood education, the better off this country will be both now and for generations to come!
T (Ad astra)
If it’s essentially a fact of life that households need two parents working to pay the bills, then this seems like a no-brainer.
Many people have children who shouldn't, either because they are too young or have to work numerous jobs. Some are drug addicted or teenage. It is obvious that these babies need the enrichment that better off parents are already able to give their children. I propose that huge grants from corporations be directed toward these efforts - and' baby colleges' for these children would go a long way to prepare them for kindergarten. Laugh, but many are not ready.
Astrid (Dog Park)
Preschool should be every child’s right. It will help working parents and also socialize children earlier.
Jack (Los Angeles)
I will say what nobody else here has the honesty or courage to admit: I love my kids, but I don't love yours. Don't tax me to subsidize other children's potential at the direct cost of my own kids' development. Everything always sounds great and virtuous when someone else is paying for it.
S (East Coast)
@Jack Pre-K will produce a giant savings for the taxpayer. Spend smaller amounts of money early to save TONS later! The super short-sighted argument about taxation is the antithesis of cost saving. Think of all the social programs that could be reduced or eliminated with reduced poverty and crime. Simultaneously more productive citizens increase the tax base. By the way I don't have kids because.... I don't like them. Fortunately, like everyone else they age. If I want interesting young adults to converse with and productive members of society then I am willing to pay (someone else) to educate them as they come up.
@Jack The USA could have been a grand experiment in how to come together as a nation and work for the common good even though we are not all related by blood or ethnicity. Instead it is a country where many are willing to profit on the backs of others so they (and their children) can get ahead and have more. Every human being deserves to live a life of dignity. Every worker in our society deserves a comfortable living wage. Every child deserves a quality education that helps them reach their potential. Those who insist that helping children born into generational poverty (which is the result of centuries of greed and corruption) takes something away from them and their children are the reason that our country is failing. We are all in this together.
John Doe (Johnstown)
@Jack, what’s a competitive edge when everyone else has it too? Sounds like a recipe for mediocrity. Everything’s relative.
Two points: First, why does this have to be a national discussion? Some states have universal pre-K, some don't. Why not let people decide at a state level what they want? Second, while pre-k helps children be ready to listen to adults and cooperate, implementing it is not going to affect the outcomes of poorly performing school systems -- those school reflect their communities. Unless we have a much more redistributive society, we should accept that we will have social classes that perpetuate themselves, and differences in academic performance, rather than being the schools' fault, are largely a by-product of those social classes.
Nathan Hansard (Buchanan VA)
@JS "Unless we have a much more redistributive society, we should accept that we will have social classes that perpetuate themselves, and differences in academic performance, rather than being the schools' fault, are largely a by-product of those social classes." You're okay with that? Really? Should we not, as a society, try to help kids given by God to families of lesser means a fighting chance? Have you rad the Bible at all?
@Nathan Hansard I'm not Christian, and I haven't read the Bible. Are you ready to walk the Christian talk and support much higher taxes for the purposes of redistribution? If so, then by all means fight the good fight in Virginia.
Grace (Bronx)
Quality public school may be a "right" for children, but sadly that's not what they are getting. Rather the education of the children is a distance second to the employment demands of the teachers. It's likely to be more of the same when it comes to pre-K.
Yojimbo (Oakland)
In this discussion, I would like us to take the focus off individual families and think above all as a society. How do we break socially self-destructive cycles of child abuse through neglect, ignorance of good parenting, or active abuse, and lack of early childhood education that result in children ill-prepared to start first grade and thus prime candidates for a socially expensive path toward frustration, self-destructive behaviors, crime and imprisonment? We pay for our shortcomings in early childhood education (ECE) with crime, prisons and insecurity. Spend a dollar now on ECE and save five (at least) later on the criminal justice system. There is as little consensus around universal childcare and pre-K as there is around Medicare for All. I'm glad Sanders and Warren and hundreds of progressive organizations are pushing the debate and that we are at least in a position for some policy gains. We won't get the whole program any more than we will get a 2% wealth tax. But the tide seems to be shifting, and I hope Biden takes this to heart. Maybe Jill Jacobs (Biden) EdD can help him understand. I hope Biden puts someone in charge of the legislation and implementation that will negotiate strong (though imperfect) legislation, make incremental programs successful, and set the stage for greater leaps in progress. I think Warren can be to Biden what Francis Perkins was to FDR, take on the entire Health, Education, Children and Family policy portfolio and run with it.
Itsy (Any town, USA)
This article needs to distinguish between free preschool/pre-K and childcare. In my area, preschool starts around age 2.5 and is usually a few hours a day, a few days a week—for a total of roughly 10 hrs/week, which seems to be sufficient for building the foundational skills needed to be successful in school. That’s very different than the 40-50 hrs/week many kids are in daycare, whose purpose is not only educational, but also to simply provide childcare. I support universal early childhood education, but don’t support free childcare—and I’m someone who is paying a fortune with 3 kids in childcare. The reason is that although a dual-working family is the right choice for us, I know it is not for many. Offering free childcare amounts to a massive subsidy to working parents that is not available to parents who may wish to stay home. We will end up making it harder and harder for families to choose whether to have a stay-at-home parent. Let’s just subsidize parenthood. Give money to parents and let them spend it on either childcare if they wish to work, or to help enable them to stay home w their kids if that is their preference.
Dejah (Williamsburg, VA)
@Itsy Oddly, this is EXACTLY what Andrew Yang wanted and folks kept saying how "unserious" he was.
Jenifer Wolf (New York)
In general, I agree w/Sanders. Not about this. If you can't care for for child or have a tusted person like a relative care for the child for the first 3 years, why have one? The reason I put the start of mandatory free pre-school at 3, is because this is, for most children, about the age that a child has sufficient verbal skills to let the parent (or other family member) know if the child is being abused, if something is going on that shouldn't be going on. Before that. most children are basically helpless.
KMcNiff (Tucson, AZ)
@Jenifer Wolf Today it is next to impossible for a family to live on one income. The median is $58,000. That is a take home of less than $4k per month. That would kill 50% of families, especially as the average healthcare premium for a family of 3 is $1200 and the medium payment for a 2 bedroom apartment is $1300 nationwide. So, unless you want to see a major reduction in population,childcare and two parent working homes are a fact of life. My husband and I are both teachers with advanced degrees, if we were not both working, our family wouldn't survive financially. This is not just a minimum wage or young parent issue.
Marissa W (Boston)
We will never fix the problems in this country until we address the root of the problem: the collapse of the nuclear family. Childhood anxiety/depression is skyrocketing and being reported at the youngest ages we have ever seen. Mothers used to raise their children . Children used to play outside. Children used to have a mother, father, and warm loving home to rely on and they would go to half day kindergarten at age 5. ‘Simplicity Parenting’ and ‘Being There’ are wonderful books for those interested in this subject. The government cannot and will never fix this problem no matter how much money is thrown at the problem. Preschool or early childhood education will never replace the universal truths of childhood. Nothing will set them up for success more than having loving parents and a loving home, and ‘quantity’ of time with parents rather than ‘quality’. The tragedy is the child has no voice or choice in this matter. I wish this article would have explored the other side of the argument further.
mnc (Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.)
@Marissa W You are so right. Childhood as we knew it seems to have disappeared. When I hear that schools should not be closed because kids don't have a proper meal at home is the beginning of the problem. I don't get it. You can't have a slice of whole grain bread and peanut butter and a piece of fruit ready for your child to head off to school. Our family was financially poor but never staved for care. This is a world of no one is responsible for their own lives and the lives of their children without depending on the state to provide what should be done on the Homefront.
Ann (Central VA)
@mnc Seriously? You are surprised that millions don't get a PB sandwich on whole grain bread (!) along with a "piece" of fresh fruit?
Kristen Rigney (Beacon, NY)
@Marissa W : This country determined long ago that it was more important for poor families to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" than to subsidize mothers so they could stay home with their children. My sister was at the tail end of the old system, fortunately, and was able to stay home with her son until he was old enough to go to school. He is now a successful young man who does computer work for Amazon. Nowadays, mothers must go to work practically the day after their babies are born, especially if they are poor. There is no way out of this endless cycle of neglect and poverty unless more people in our country decide that taking care of our children is important. If we are going to expect mothers of babies and young children to go to work, we need to have a system in place to take care of those children; otherwise, we will continue to see huge gaps between those who are wealthy enough to raise their own children and those who would like to but are not allowed to since they will supposedly become "welfare queens".
cheryl (yorktown)
Thoughts: yes OF COURSE there should be high quality preschool open to all, and geared to age appropriate development; Public doesn't not mean inferior, but it does require a commitment of financing that doesn't leave poorer school districts unable to provide premium schools. Remember separate but equal -- the old argument for segregated schools? There was no such thing. Schools are now segregated by race AND economic class and it, too fails the smell test. Maybe we should have a program geared towards attracting some of the best and brightest to teaching - and teaching in challenging and "undesirable" locations. Its possible. The US doesn't "love" its children: each group seems to love their own often too much, and sees others as competition ( for all of the rewards of life ahead). But I remain convinced that inspired leadership could unite enough of us to make this a priority. Either we give our children -- all of the them - the best educations we can - or we will face deteriorating social conditions. The wealthy will hide, the upper middle class will cling to their slight advantages, the middle class will cease to exist, and a large disenfranchised group will grow. And we will not have the skilled citizens we need for the future.
Susan Levy (Brooklyn, NY)
@chery There have been many advances for women over the past 50 or 60 years. One unintended, and unfortunate, consequence has been that the “best and brightest” women are not going into teaching, at least in high-poverty and high-needs schools. These women used to have few other choices of career. Add the persistent social stigma on men going into early childhood education and you have a big problem.
Mary Smith (Southern California)
@Susan Levy My child, one of the best and the brightest, chose to be an educator when she could have chosen a career where she would have been treated with more respect and earned a higher salary. Instead, she is a third year teacher earning $40,000/year teaching at a high-poverty high-needs school in rural Oregon. Every day of this pandemic she fears for her kids who are stuck at home, many with no internet, falling further behind their more fortunate peers.
DC (California)
@Susan Levy This is pretty insulting. I attended UC Irvine for undergrad and UC Berkeley for grad school. I had a high GPA both times and I chose to be a teacher. My best friend turned down law school at USC to go into teaching. The teachers at my school are all critical thinkers who examine our lessons closely to make sure our students are receiving the best instruction. We attend teaching workshops and read books about teaching. We constantly reflect on our practice so we can improve.
AT (Idaho)
There is no question that we all benefit when kids are raised healthy and educated and we should all contribute to this, but I do wonder about the elephant in the room. When will we as a society ask for more responsibility from people having large families to place some limits on the number of children they have? If it’s my/our obligation to pay for all this why do people have a “right” to have as many kids as they want regardless of their ability to support them? Somethings out of balance in this.
Lallie Wetzig (Columbus, Ohio)
@AT Yes, exactly what I think. In another post I spoke of my grandfather who waited until he was a successful farmer to even marry. And my parents only had 2 children because they realized (with my father's lousy pay as a teacher) that they could only educate 2 as they wished. Shouldn't people take responsibility for their actions?
Simon Sez (Maryland)
Bernie is now nothing more than a symbolic candidate. He has lost but he and his followers are in denial. One in another NYT article says, We need to get Biden to take up our program and put as much pressure on him as we can. In the final paragraph he adds, Of course, we are not going to vote for Biden in November.
Barbara (USA)
In the wake of this coronavirus pandemic, I would never support any sort of universal child care program that would put more children into preschool when they should be with their families at home instead. There should be more tax breaks to support stay home parents and parents working from home.
Connie Martin (Warrington Pa)
@Barbara I was an at-home mom and both my kids went to pre-school. It was not all day or every day- once a week for 3 year olds, twice a week for 4's and 3 times a week for 5's 2 to 3 hours a day. We thought it was important for our kids for many reasons- none of them academic. They learned how to behave in a group setting, how to trust and obey non-parental authority figures, how to separate from Mom, how to interact with kids their own age, how to follow rules, how to have fun with people other than the immediate family etc etc etc. Even 30 years ago, there were not many ways a child could get that unless they went to pre-school. The days of neighborhoods swarming with at-home Moms and large numbers of kids roaming around are long gone. Pre-school costs were a financial struggle then and my kids pre-school's current 1 day program costs more than the 3 day program did then. I am certainly in favor of universal pre-school.
West Texas Momma (USA)
@Barbara, I might agree that providing some sort of government stipend or tax break to encourage at least one parent in a family with children under 4 or 5 to stay home would be beneficial. However, being a stay-at-home parent is a more than full-time job since the person in that role is also the full-time homemaker. Add to that, as you suggest, another full-time job, even one done remotely rather than at an outside workplace, and you create a situation which will likely lead to frustration, exhaustion, and a mediocre job on all fronts - not the best bbn or healthiest outcome for parent or child.
News User (Within sight of scenic high mountains)
A plus for US society is this is a way to address the child care issue, a problem for many with children. A negative is that it requires paying preschool educators a decent wage which drives up taxes. Another negative is that it’s public which means it’s going to be second rate and driven by teachers’ unions. Another negative is ... if the government is paying for it, the government is going to determine the curriculum. Another issue is ... who is going to handle those, due to various physical and psychological maladies, who do not fit into conventional learning situations. Plus’s, such systems have been invented before in communist societies as Russia and China and similar countries.
Elizabeth Bardwell (Las Cruces)
If government’s purpose is to provide for the health and well being of it’s citizens, providing childcare to its families, including food security, safe place, and a loving environment, is more important than all the business welfare we currently invest in including arms production, weapons, oil and gas production that are in the process of killing us. A human right or simple common sense, call it what you want, I am for it. And those who oppose it, I would ask what self interest is so threatened by concern for our fellow citizens?
terrymander (DC)
Yes it should start at birth. Today a huge and growing number of households are dual income or single income households.Both parents or mom need to go to work. For women this is incredibly tough. We struggle, get thru college, and thenare forced to take break of 2-5 years UnLESS we pay for criminally expensive daycare. We spend our most productive years out of the labour market.and making a career afterthat is very hard
Jim cibulka (Webster Groves)
If we are being honest and focused only on results, we should spend all that college money on preschool instead! Preschool at the earliest possible age has effects that last a persons whole life. And these positive effects include more than just academic improvement! College affordability keeps getting attention and promises of help . . . But that’s because they can vote! Infant education is far more effective even if babies can’t vote!!
Ed Watters (San Francisco)
There are so many wonderful things we could be doing with the money we dump into the black hole we call “defense spending”, not to mention the untaxed, outrageous wealth being taken by the few. None of this will change, however, so long as we have a Democratic leadership that offers compromise positions as their opening proposals and votes FOR Trump’s defense spending requests. Until enough of the Democratic base realizes that Pelosi, Schumer and the rest of the establishment are barriers to the change we need, we are stuck with a very suboptimal status quo, far inferior to what the rest of the world’s wealthy countries enjoy.
Jennifer (San Francisco)
The article should mention that we almost had subsidized birth to 5 child care in the US. Congress passed it in 1971 on a bipartisan basis; Nixon vetoed it.
Hat Trick (Seattle)
@Jennifer Good for Nixon!
G (New Jersey)
Some towns don’t have even full day kindergartens. I’d prefer to see improvements overall in upper grades. More teachers.
cait farrell (maine)
pre school teaches children to socialize with one another, other adults, provides positive exposure to germs to build immunity, provides space, more than likely for the mom, to work or go to school, provides needed downtime from parenting.. teaches children to read and to count... aids in parents meeting other parents early on for much needed support and feedback.. provides parents with connection and community and birthday parties on weekends,, and summer camp connections,,
Walter Bruckner (Cleveland, Ohio)
How about we shift things so that a family can survive on one income? Then we wouldn't need the free daycare. That is what school is for many--a place to park children all day, whether they like it or not, while both parents are forced to work to make ends meet. Many children who don't fit the standardized mold at school are unhappy and maladjusted, and worst case scenario, forced into the pipeline to prison. Look at the statistics for suspensions for preschoolers. Preschoolers!! Even the kids who do fit the mold are stressed out, laying the foundation of anxiety and depression. In a day and age where class sizes swell and a 19th-century model of education no longer makes sense, why are we suggesting more of the same? Can we please get honest about school? I think the Mayor's decision to keep schools in NYC open during a public health crisis makes clear, if it wasn't before, that their primary role is that of social service provider. Food, shelter, health care. Education is a cover story. Institutionalized care should not take the place of loving family and community, especially in the early years. We need a major readjustment, I just don't think that more school is the answer.
grmadragon (NY)
@RB Leaving the babies and children home with many parents is not beneficial. I've been in homes where the baby is on the floor, facing a TV, with a bottle propped in its mouth while mom was playing on her computer, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. How well do you think this baby is going to turn out? I can tell you. I switched from social work to teaching 1st grade. This particular child was in my class. At 6 years old, and after a year in Kgn., he could not yet talk. His early learning years were wasted. He and his mother would have been better off if he had been in a childcare situation, and if she had been sterilized after having 3 children because she didn't bother with birth control, knowing that she and the children would be taken care of.
Dr. Conde (Medford, MA.)
I completely agree with Bernie, Elizabeth, and Europe on this one, and so should the capitalists who don't hate and fear women. Daycare makes work for families who want or need to possible. Quality daycare enriches children's lives and educational futures. Moreover, preschool should be connected to public school and preschool and K-2 teachers should work together, receive equivalent training, be paid the same, and have the opportunity to work with the families and children who may be coming up through their systems. Quality and oversight is better maintained through a public system that requires background checks and licensing. As for the religious or other parents who can, must, or want to stay home they should have that right and be paid to do so. This shouldn't be a political wedge issue. The greater good of Americans should be considered. What is best for children and the future of the country is clear: very affordable or free care and education is and always has been best--for all!
S (East Coast)
You want to win the war on poverty (or crime) then pre-K may be one of the few effective ways to do just that. How does a parent with a 100 word vocabulary prepare his or her child for kindergarten? How does the child get an education when they are already behind in kindergarten and first grade? And going to continue to be further and further behind and more and more frustrated as the years pass. How do other children get an education when a threshold number of their peers, woefully under prepared, are thwarting the education of all to mask their own shortcomings? Pre-K may be one of the few effective ways to break this cycle of educational poverty, actual poverty, and the concomitant societal ills.
L (Ohio)
No adult has a vocabulary of only “100 words.” What you’re really saying is poor people shouldn’t be able to raise their own children, which is a terrible statement.
S (East Coast)
@L You haven't been in Baltimore City or in the schools here - there are parents with extremely limited vocabularies - 100 words is not an exaggeration. No I am not saying the poor shouldn't be parents or shouldn't get raise their children. The point of pre-K is to address achievement gaps where they start and at the earliest ages before they become too large to address. If you equate education with 'poor people shouldn't be able to raise their own children' then why stop at pre-K? I guess all grades and education send this same message by your logic?
Edith yates (Oakland, CA)
For those who advocate two years of paid parental leave, how would you feel about the women who have a baby every two years so they continue to get paid and never return to work? Will you set a limit on the number of children they could have and still qualify? Will they have to work two years in between? What does that mean for the 38 year old mother? She couldn’t get paid leave again until she was 42? I don’t believe in paying people to have children. The ones who would do it for the payments are least equipped to parent. Many low income mothers do stay home with their children. Or they are with a grandparent, an aunt, a neighbor. There is some form of childcare. The premise seems to be the government will do a better job caring for them in their early years. This may be true in some cases. It is sometimes true in public school. But the government is a poor substitute for a parent as we see with foster care. I do believe in universal preschool. But, if it isn’t mandatory, and transportation isn’t provided, you won’t be reaching the severely disadvantaged who are better off in preschool than at home. The disadvantages that make them low income- immigration status, mental health, disability, lack of education, low IQ, fractured families, history of abuse, don’t go away with preschool or public school.
@Edith yates Studies have shown and common sense tells us that better educated people have fewer children. The problem is we have to break the cycle somewhere. If we invest in the early childhood years by valuing the parent-child relationship, the child is likely to become better educated, make it to college, and then have fewer children.
Jennifer (San Francisco)
@Edith yates I'm not willing to veto good policy for everyone because someone might abuse it. I'm also deeply unsettled by your implication that poverty is the result of low educational attainment, abuse, and single parenting. I think - and research strongly suggests - that you've confused cause and effect.
Edith yates (Oakland, CA)
Why is the goal fewer children? When people say low income people (who skew brown and black) should have fewer children, I am very skeptical.
If we ever want a strong economy based on strong, healthy, educated people, then, yeah, we have grow children that are stronger, healthier, and more well-educated than their competitors in other nations. Pre-school should be seen as a part of military basic training, because it is so fundamental to our national security.
Thomas LaFollette (Sunny Cal)
Let's see, we are currently running a $1+ trillion annual federal budget deficit, state and local governments and school districts are under considerable fiscal stress and have massive unfunded pension obligations, and many public K-12 schools need significant educational and infrastructure improvements. It sounds like a great time to add a massive additional fiscal obligation to our public schools, doesn't it? How about we first focus on fixing / improving what we already have?
Jennifer (San Francisco)
@Thomas LaFollette None of that will happen unless we raise taxes on the extremely wealthy. If you intend for those massive school infrastructure costs, fully funding IDEA (the federal government's refusal to do so is a big driver of state education budget crunches), you'll need to tax the wealthy. Doing so could provide adequate funding for early childhood education.
Sean (Greenwich)
@Thomas LaFollette In fact, supporters of universal pre-K are demanding that it be paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy. America collects taxes at all levels of government that are 10 percentage points below the average for the OECD. We are one of the lightest taxed nations on the planet. The problem is that average folks are paying high costs for healthcare, childcare and university, while the uber-wealthy benefit from the lowest marginal tax rates in the OECD. We can easily fund universal pre-K by raising marginal tax rates on the wealthy. It's not hard.
cheryl (yorktown)
@Thomas LaFollette It DOES depend on our collective values and priorities. And the most recent spike in the debt has everything to do with lowering the taxes on the highest income Americans. Perhaps someday we will realize that a healthy and well educated populace is as important to our security as mercenaries for hire, and the armament industry.
Valerie L. (Westport, CT)
I do believe in universal pre-K, but I don't believe it need start at birth. Fair paid leave for new parents--say, 2 years to be used by one parent or split between 2, (divided in any way the family likes, and to include any two parental figures--ie a father and a grandmother, for instance) needs to be universally supported. Babies need PARENTS, not institutions in their first years of life. I agree with others that pre-K (and even K) needs to be play-based. This business of trying to cram learning down 6-year-olds throats is ridiculous. Homework is insane for kids in elementary school AND their parents--how many of us have had to deal with children crying over math sheets and and later on, that godawful 5-paragraph essay? Values of humanity, generosity, community and joyful living need to become essential to our educational system. And possible for parents, too, when they are adequately supported as caregivers.
For the self employed or those with a permanent job, a 2 year break may be impossible. You can still give them a payed parental leave, but the option of childcare should be available. Especially for single mothers, an extended hiatus from work can be crippling to their career, and ultimately the child’s financial security. Even while working this doesn’t mean the parents abandon the child, they just need some help, sometimes to watch the child.
Dr. Conde (Medford, MA.)
@Valerie L. Every family is different. We need a flexible system that allows families to enter when they need. For some that may be six weeks after birth; for others six years!
L (Ohio)
I don’t think any parent should need to put their 6-week-old in daycare, and I don’t think any parent wants to do that. The real help in that situation would be higher paying jobs, paid maternity leave, lower student loans, and more affordable housing - not daycare.
Mor (California)
Preschool is necessary both for the children and the parents. The benefits for the children are well explained in this article. The benefits for the parents are equally obvious: escape from the tedium of being cooped up at home with no adult company. As a mother of two kids, I could not wait to go back to work after the mandatory parental leave of six months (yes, this was in a civilized country that has both parental leave and subsidized childcare). If I wanted to spend all my time cooing to babies, I would train as a childcare provider. I did not. Not every mother is qualified to teach her own children (which is why homeschooling is a terrible idea). Universal childcare is a win-win, and I don’t understand why more women don’t vote for it.
irene (fairbanks)
@Mor Believe it or not, some mothers actually like being home with their young children. It was challenging for me, as my husband worked in the oil fields and I was often home alone with 2 young kids, a herd of cows, and all the other things that come with small scale farming. In an extreme environment. But I wouldn't trade those years, and the wonderful times we had, for anything.
Teresa (Miss NY)
Are there as many billionaires in countries that spend a higher percentage of their GDP on childcare as there are in the United States? I'm guessing not. Our tax code allows people to become fabulously wealthy and once fabulously wealthy (and one doesn't need to be a billionaire to belong to this exclusive club), people generally stay there. If our society actually valued educating our populace, the US would be able to afford many things, including universal preschool, healthcare for all and financial security for all.
Icarex35 (PA)
@Teresa, there are more billionaires per capita in Norway and Sweden than in the US, and those countries provide tax funded parental leave for a full year and subsidies for high quality childcare for kids age 1 to 5 (tax burden in shared across society, every one pays and every one gets - what do the rich get? They get to live in a low risk society with no need for walls around their communities)
Mor (California)
@Teresa once again, pseudo-liberals are offering demagoguery demonizing “the rich” instead of actual solutions. The Nordic countries have as many (or more) billionaires per capita as the US. If you think that simply taking money away from the upper classes will solve all social problems, you must have slept through history classes in high school. Revolutionary redistribution leads to economic collapse, after which money is worth nothing. The economy is a dynamic mechanism, not a pool of goodies to be shifted around at will. While higher taxes on everybody is a good idea, the Nordic countries also have disciplined populations that value hard work and family cohesion. The underclass in the US - not so much. If you want to have effective preschools, prevent brainless teenagers from having multiple kids they can neither support nor educate.
Rhonda (Pennsylvania)
@Mor No one is advocating for communism, nor would any of the social programs advocated by progressives impoverish the wealthy. Furthermore, the poor are not to blame for the systems that limit their mobility.
As an early childhood and elementary school teacher for over 35 years in rural Iowa, an international overseas school, a private school in Japan, and two different large American urban school districts including NYC, I have come to the following conclusions: 1. We are in crisis in our country (and in the world) because we value money over human beings. 2. We ALL work too hard, including our children, but the fruits of our labor are going to the few at the top. 3. Education should be about learning for the sake of learning, because it is enjoyable, because it improves the quality of our lives, NOT to pass a test or get a job. 4. We need to rethink how our society works, starting with paid parental leave for two years for each parent, free child care and preschool for all, free college, paid sick leave, a universal basic income, etc. 5. But then we need to move toward sustainable living on our planet by reducing consumption, limiting growth (economic and population), valuing human relationships over material objects, and living mindfully. There is plenty of “wealth” in our world to go around. We just need to redistribute it fairly. We need to choose a strong community over individual greed. If we choose to move in a new direction, our grandchildren might be able to live in a world where every person is valued and where education is about broadening the mind, rather than providing child care for overworked parents.
Sean (Greenwich)
@TJ To accomplish that, we need to vote in Bernie Sanders, the only candidate who supports all of those proposals. Then we need to elect Democrats to control both chambers of Congress. That will accomplish all of what you are proposing..
A. Gideon (Montclair, NJ)
@TJ "We need to rethink how our society works, starting with paid parental leave for two years for each parent, free child care and preschool for all, free college, paid sick leave, a universal basic income, etc...then we need to move toward sustainable living on our planet by reducing consumption, limiting growth (economic and population) " So you want to pay people to have children while reducing the population? Sure, that's reasonable and not at all internally inconsistent. ...Andrew
KMcNiff (Tucson, AZ)
Without childcare, which costs 15% of our net income, our family could not survive financially. Even in a low cost city like Tucson, two incomes are often needed for even the most modest living. Childcare costs us as much as sending him to a public university. The rate is massive and until he goes to 1st grade (full day Kinder in this state also costs), we'll be using the money set aside for his college and later our retirement, to put him in childcare. What he learns in his Montessori is incredible but I must admit that as a mother and a teacher, I hand my baby over to other people every day so that I can teach other people's babies. I cannot afford to simply be with my own. That fills me with incredible guilt and sadness as a mother. Despite having two masters degrees and working hard in education, I am not worthy financially of the privilege of raising my own child. If I cannot raise him, then at least relieve me of the financial burden of childcare which costs 5 times the average rate of childcare in 1980. We spend $12,500 per year for him to attend school while we work. Preschool should be a right, as long as Kindergarten is no longer play based and as long as the average American family can no longer afford one parent to be home with their children.
kmgx25 (cambridge, ma)
@KMcNiff "the average American family can no longer afford one parent to be home with their children". Childcare has transformed the economy and improved lives. But it has also encouraged a lot of expansive hi-tech consumerism. Some perspective from someone born in 1953: Sure, back in the 50's almost all moms stayed home. Lower income families had no luxuries in those days, not even TVs until about 1960. People rarely ate at restaurants/ there was no fast food. I recall my mom using a washboard at the sink to wash diapers. She couldn't even afford to talk on the phone for more than 10 minutes a week because of high per minute rates set by "Ma Bell". But today even families of modest means see cellphones, cable TV, two cars, air conditioning, manicures, mall shopping and other luxuries as the norm. This isn't bad; it's just how it looks to me, who once a 6 yr old child helping my weary mom shovel coal into our furnace. So when you said "no longer afford" I am seriously baffled. Exactly when were these good old days?
Connie Martin (Warrington Pa)
@Honeybee Its funny- I agree with what you say here- it's what my husband and I decided to do 35 years ago- but you say it in such a hostile, judgmental, self-righteous way that even I am inclined to argue with you. Telling people they are unintelligent if they can't duplicate your life choices is counter-productive. I am the first to admit that our lives could have turned our very differently if we did not have some lucky breaks that helped us avoid all the potential downsides of our choice to have an at-home parent. I can only assume your spouse has a job that has been completely secure and lay-off proof with excellent benefits because most families find it impossible to be "smart, self-reliant" if the only income earner is suddenly jobless and without health insurance.
NjRN (New Jersey)
Also, what do you do if the one wage earner in the household gets fired, becomes ill or disabled & can no longer be the sole provider? My youngest is 21 also & EVERTHING was a lot cheaper 21 years ago. Congratulations on staying home with your kids, but what worked for you would absolutely not work for others. Also, the lack of respect for working parents implied in your comment was stunning.
KMcNiff (Tucson, AZ)
Without childcare, which costs 15% of our net income, our family could not survive financially. Even in a low cost city like Tucson, two incomes are often needed for even the most modest living. Childcare costs us as much as sending him to a public university. The rate is massive and until he goes to 1st grade (full day Kinder in this state also costs), we'll be using the money set aside for his college and later our retirement, to put him in childcare. What he learns in his Montessori is incredible but I must admit that as a mother and a teacher, I hand my baby over to other people every day so that I can teach other people's babies. I cannot afford to simply be with my own. That fills me with incredible guilt and sadness as a mother. Despite having two masters degrees and working hard in education, I am not worthy financially of the privilege of raising my own child. If I cannot raise him, then at least relieve me of the financial burden of childcare which costs 5 times the average rate of childcare in 1980. We spend $12,500 per year for him to attend school while we work. Preschool should be a right, as long as Kindergarten is no longer play based and as long as the average American family can no longer afford one parent to be home with their children.
NjRN (New Jersey)
You said it more clearly than I ever could. Just know that you are setting a wonderful, very realistic example of combining a career with a family for your child & your child will reap enormous benefits from it. Both my kids were in full time day care from 5 months of age and are now 21 and 23, and they turned out great. Don't waste time feeling guilty. If you were home alone caring for your child all day, you'd probably still be looking for play groups and activities with other kids anyway, but you'd have less income available to pay for them.
Pragmatic (San Francisco)
When I served as a member of the Delegate Assembly of my state’s school board association years ago, I facilitated a conversation about this very idea. It was a diverse group, ethnically, economically and geographically. And the split in opinion about the state’s providing pre-school for everyone was split between large city school districts and rural and suburban. The city board members who saw how far behind so many kids were who had no access to pre-school vs the ones who had argued strongly for universal pre-school. The others-not so much. A lot of the arguments were around “it’s the parents’ responsibility to make those choices, not the state’s, etc etc. I have to say that both sides listened to each other respectfully and I do think they heard each other. But at the end of the day we couldn’t come to any consensus about what to do so we made no recommendation to the larger group. This article made me reflect on that discussion and wonder if it’s the same split now. I have no idea what the party affiliation was for anyone in the group so can’t say whether or not it was “just” Republicans who were against the idea. But we weren’t so polarized then either.
Kyle (CCC Central coast calif)
I got mine? But you don’t. Education isn’t about you and yours it’s about ours. Our population needs as many highly educated kids as possible. We need, people who don’t feel like the American dream is beyond reach... that little black and or brown kid is yours as well. Your future your country depends on their success. The district that I am a board member, provides pre-K. Our scores are rising in the early grades affected by the expansion.
Dr B (San Diego)
@Kyle Unfortunately the culture most poor children grow up in is what most limits them. No amount of education in school can make up for being raised by a single mom and absent father.
Stephen Rinsler (Arden, NC)
@Pragmatic, Responsibility only exists with power. If a parent lacks the resources to parent adequately and society says that the infant’s or child’s problem, that is an evil society.
BTO (Somerset, MA)
This article starts with the wrong title, it says public school and it should start with an education is a child's right, then the question that should be asked is at what age should it start and end. This is a debate that could go on and on. Some feel that is should start with preschool and go on to college. There probably is no question that a free education helped to build the USA into a great nation and going forward we should try to improve that.
Charlie (NJ)
The list of very expensive proposals by these candidates is staggering. And like so many lists one has to ask the real life questions of how do we decide which programs on the list are most important given the funding realistically available. We've got medicare growing shortfalls and social security has about a 15 year future before we have to do something. The progressive democrats have put forth a Christmas list as long as two arms. This pre-K, I am sorry to say, feels like a luxury item when you think about all the priorities we have that are more urgent. How about do what any sensible person would normally do when faced with a a lot of wants. How about we make a list and then prioritize it instead of sitting around and dreaming up all the vote getting candy we can "have a plan for". And how about we ask Americans about each one of those separately to see what they think about each idea. Why for example should every American who paid off their student loans be tasked with paying off those who didn't pay theirs and would the majority of Americans support that expense?
UrbanTeacher (Chicago, IL)
@Charlie What about all the welfare doled out to the rich and corporations in the form of massive tax breaks? What about the staggering amount we spend on the military? In 2017 the GOP members of Congress gave the military more money in the budget than the military actually requested. It's all about priorities. If we gave out fewer tax breaks and reduced the military budget we could actually afford universal pre-K.
Lallie Wetzig (Columbus, Ohio)
@Charlie I think what you say makes sense. Of course all the free stuff won't be free. Even if taxes are raised on the wealthy will that be enough. I doubt it. I read a good op-ed in the NYT recently about how Bernie didn't understand Denmark.
yulia (MO)
And how do you propose to address these priorities? For example, to fix Medicare, you will have to either increase taxes or/and decrease spending that will be most likely achieved by Medicare for All that puts the Government much better position to negotiate prices and decrease spending.
kate (dublin)
Of course there are countries in the world where this is already the case, such as France. By the time maternity leave ends, free child care is available. Historically, before the industrial revolution, most children were cared for in group settings by elder siblings or women no longer of childbearing age, who were considered in the often agricultural workplace. Collective work places and collective child care places almost certainly also are better from a mental health point of view.
S Baldwin (Milwaukee)
Possible, popular and effective - who could argue with that? And yet, here's another legitimate point of view that should be part of a balanced solution: Parents should think about the cost of raising a child before they commit to having one. A committed partner and a steady job (which is more than entry level) are probably a good idea, and yet these things are lacking in a significant number of young families. The consequences of this often doom both the parents and the children to continiued poverty. If the parents had only waited a few years until their relationship and their resources were more secure, the outcome would probably be much better. It is fair to ask that this be addressed along with early childhood education.
Lallie Wetzig (Columbus, Ohio)
@S Baldwin Reading paragraph two I remember what I was told about my grandfather who was a farmer in west Texas. He was 32 before he married, and he married a woman much younger. He waited to marry until he was settled successfully with his own farm. He had a sense of responsibility that seems to be lacking. I'm a liberal and I receive many requests for donations. One was for an organization that builds houses for people who can't afford one. They wanted to build one for a janitor who had 11 children. I did not donate.
Barking Doggerel (America)
@S Baldwin As long as you're also supportive of reproductive choice and free access to family planning services. Not to mention the kind of society that makes it possible for people to have secure relationships and finances. Or are you suggesting that poor, struggling people not be allowed to have children?
yulia (MO)
Where is the guarantee that their finances and their relations will get better with time? And when they get better who can guarantee that they will be able to have the kids? The society can not exist without kids, so it is in interest of society to have enough kids to prevent the collapse
Hj (Florida)
A child born healthy is ready to learn from first breath. Those born with a defect that side lines their development, is another conversation. That said, In my 56 years of caring for many kids of all ages, all need age appropriate guidance through each stage of development. Attention to consistency, balance play to focused activities that are of structure to get them ready for the at least 12 years of formal education. Babies may need the mother for a few months while she recuperates from birthing it, beyond that,unless the mother is set to educate it till kindergarten, it is best placed in a "school" setting. The time to stay home "for your kid(s)" is when they begin jr high. They are at their most venerable at that time. Stick it out with their teen angst, send them on their way, go back to work, enjoy what is left of your life.
Sean (Greenwich)
Ms Cain-Miller states: "There’s a growing movement to do so, particularly among Democrats." Let's be clear: The movement toward universal free pre-K is growing ONLY among Democrats. The proposals from Republicans are not serious, and Republicans have no interest in implementing universal pre-K. If they did, they would have done so during the first two years of Trump with control of the Congress. Ms Cain-Miller continues: "But over all, Americans have resisted universal care and education for the youngest children. One reason has been political resistance to a large new taxpayer-financed government program." Wrong. It's not "Americans" who have resisted this, it's Republicans. Democrats understand that it should be a right, and that it works everywhere in the world where implemented. The Upshot should not be blurring responsibility. Republicans are blocking this. And only Republicans.
Lallie Wetzig (Columbus, Ohio)
@Sean Well, I'm not sure. I'm a liberal democrat and I'm not in favor of universal pre-K. I'm all for health insurance for everyone and a much higher minimum wage. But I'm not for free pre-K or for free college either. My parents had only 2 children because they felt they could afford two. They didn't expect to be given everything for free.
Dom (Lunatopia)
@Sean i have news for you many people would rather no want govt in their kids lives that means govt funded schools
Kathy (SF)
@Lallie Wetzig Yes, a well educated population would be a real nightmare, wouldn't it. We might be healthier and more successful if we were better prepared for school. We might not have tens of millions of functionally illiterate citizens. People pay for the wellbeing of their societies through their taxes. I am in favor of everything that gets us out of the gutter and moving in the direction of a civilized country. Aren't you?
Ray (Massachusetts)
Had Bernie led with universal pre-school instead of free college, he would have had at least one more vote. This is an important issue, and one that is stepped over by many progressive politicians.
Sean (Greenwich)
@Ray In fact, Senator Sanders does support universal pre-K. Here's his policy position: “We must guarantee childcare and universal pre-Kindergarten for every child in America to help level the playing field, create new and good jobs, and enable parents more easily balance the demands of work and home.” – "Bernie 2020 campaign website"
Connie Amazed (Pennsylvania)
3-6 hours of preschool 5 days a week for 30-36 weeks a year is certainly better than nothing, but if the child cannot get three healthy balanced meals a day, caregivers scream at her, and she cannot sleep because of noise, light and stress and she is exposed to toxins in the water, we are not effectively helping that child. Instead parenting should be taught in high schools to all, every year. Healthy water and nutrient dense meals should be served for free in all high schools in all underserved at risk communities to all ages no questions asked. And health and psychological counseling should be provided at the schools. Schools would be the hearts of communities. If we did all of this beautiful happy loved healthy bright children would thrive all over America in every book and cranny.
Doug (San Francisco)
@Connie Amazed - You have an enormous and, I think, unfounded belief in government to get it right.
GP (Aspen)
I am certainly okay with children being educated at a younger age by the state because so many parents are ill-prepared to raise their children, just look at how many anti-vacciners don’t protect their children from disease. My only requirement for this substantial expansion of education and associated cost is that we stop subsidizing parents having children with economic benefits like tax deductions beyond the number needed to maintain our population, no need to replicate the mistakes of China. I would also change the tax code so that families with more than two children not only do not receive tax credits but that they have to pay higher taxes. The only exception I would make are for families that adopt children or take in foster children.
scott (Albany NY)
@GP so we are left to assume you also favor eliminating many, if not all of the tax breaks for farms, manufacturers and other businesses, as well as farm subsidies, oil exploration and Correct?
GP (Aspen)
@scott Your reply is a bit of a non sequitur because my tax suggestion related directly children and the cost benefit by society to parents of children. If you want to have an off topic discussion about other aspects of tax policy then by all means do so on another thread. However, do not infer anything about what I said beyond what I have specifically said. I do think that a legitimate discussion regarding children and society should be done without any attempt to paint someone into an ideological corner or to vilify them because they think differently than you do.
Bob Krantz (SW Colorado)
@GP Or we could remove children from private homes, where parents are not fully competent to educate and care for them--and that would be all of us, right? Kids would be much better off in standardized boarding schools starting at age two.
SteveRR (CA)
The evidence is quite clear that any benefits from preschool disappear rapidly after the first grade. The fact that current public schools do such an abysmal job educating kids should give no sensible person who is passingly familiar with induction any confidence that there will be 'high quality' preschool. Fix middle school education as the number one priority and when place like NYC can meet modest expectations for reading writing and arithmetic then talk about expansion. Last year - just 45.4% were deemed proficient in reading and 46.7% in math. In the city, 47.4% passed the reading test, while 45.6% got by in math. And lastly - that clarion call for forced integration where parents who are active in their schools and kids lives are forced to carry the water for disinterested and disengaged parents. So their kids get the privilege of interacting with constant disruption and violence in the classroom from a really early age. Rich folks send their kids to private preschool for a reason. Let's call this what it is - it is simply daycare and an attempt by the teacher unions to get several billion dollars for its members to 'teach' daycare.
yulia (MO)
If anything, that shows that actually we need to address the schools qualities, than rather blame preschool, because children who goes to preschool are showing advantages, but without continuing good education these advantages disappear. But I think the preschool is valuable even as a daycare, because it allows parents to work and to earn more money and pay more taxes.
scott (Albany NY)
@SteveRR how quickly we forgot the good lessons learned from Federally funded preschool programs that funded daycare programs in the 1960's.and 1970's.
Rachael Horovitz (London)
How anyone can disagree with this is unfathomable. It is past time to level the playing field; the US has hundreds of years to make up for. Yes it is a humungous ship to turn around but, if we want to see a future, we have to do it. Generations of children have seen their futures thwarted by the economics / politics of our education system.
Bob Krantz (SW Colorado)
@Rachael Horovitz Is the US really behind with our primitive system? Let's poll people in their early 20s about career and life prospects and compare results from the US with those from the UK, France, Spain, and Italy.
billd (Colorado Springs)
We're all born equal. And then, baby, you're on your own. If you are born into the protected class you do get a quality learning experience in pre-school. My own 3 grand children are experiencing that now. However, the cost is roughly equal to college tuition. Why our society will not provide that experience to all our children is a reflection of the narcissism and bigotry of the political party in power.
Lallie Wetzig (Columbus, Ohio)
@billd Yes, your first sentence is true. Republicans want to cut back on food and medical care which are even more important than pre-school. However, someone else would have to pay for this free preschool and enough good (we hope) teachers would be needed. Where would we get this money. Hard enough to get money needed for the schooling that is already free.
mabel (ny)
@Lallie Wetzig Well, roll back the insane Trump tax cuts for one. Then reprioritize education and families. We are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. The notion that we cannot afford to provide what most of the developed world already provides is absurd.
Stephen Rinsler (Arden, NC)
@Lallie Wetzig, We apparently have money enough for corporate assistance programs, a HUGE military and now a “space force”. Just to name a few sources. @billd, Unfortunately, I have to disagree that “We’re all born equal.” The poorest pregnant women have poorer pregnancy outcomes. Even our fetuses are affected by the wealth and status of their mothers.
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
Why, in the name of The Good Sweet Goddess, would any "advanced" society not want ALL of it's children to be given every opportunity for socialization and education? We are all together in this very small lifeboat, friends.
Dom (Lunatopia)
@Miss Anne Thrope i hated preschool as a child and there are other way to socialize like with family! oh i forgot american society is so bad most people don't even have real families! not everyone wants to live in your "advanced" cookie cutter degraded version society. and it is not a small life boat!
Mon Ray (KS)
@Miss Anne Thrope Hmm. The world economy is tanking and millions are unemployed. Thousands of people around the world are ill or dying from a new and fast-moving virus with no (as yet) known cure or vaccine, and millions more likely to succumb. Of course preschool is desirable. Yet, in the aftermath of coronavirus will the US be able to afford it, along with free college, loan forgiveness, Medicare for all, etc? I don’t think so. I’m worried I won’t be able to make my mortgage payments. Our priority should be to survive coronavirus, not just in the US, but around the world. Once survival is assured, we can return our attention to eliminating economic inequality, achieving social justice, etc.
Max Shapiro (Brooklyn)
What age is the best for a child to learn to play an instrument, someone asked the famous Zoltan Kodaly. At about nine months, he said, before the birth of the mother. Children don't have a "right" to education in America, but parents have a legal obligation to provide one. It's up to the parents to decide on home, public, or private schooling. Where education is a priority, children get it. Where it isn't, they are out of luck. That's the American way. We see that the same ad hoc approach is doing just fine today, in healthcare and the president's response to the pandemic. Americans don't want to lose their 'free for all" approach to healthcare and education with a "free for all" approach.
MK (BRooklyn)
I assume this is a tongue in cheek response to right of education and medical care. The government has been trying to usurp the public’s right to decision making for themselves and their children. A good education depends on the amount of money we are willing to pay. Good health for all citizens also.....hence the prevailing low salaries for our teachers and health care WORKERS, not only the doctors. Those who can pay for private school education and now they are trying to dismantle Obama care to prevent us from good medical care.
Max Shapiro (Brooklyn)
@MK In a democracy, the government is the public so it can't usurp it's inalienable right to determine what is best for itself. The democracy has the right to make individuals to make concessions if those concessions assure the health and well-being of the democracy and the republic. That said, Americans, by pursuing government policies that allow individuals to go uncovered by healthcare and who allow parents to disallow their youngest children access to education are pursuing, policies that undermine our democracy and our liberal constitutional republic. Those who fight against universal healthcare and quality education for all, even the youngest among us, are attacking us, not defending our individual rights, as they claim.
Voyageur (Mass./France)
My son and family lived in Stockholm, Sweden when his two boys were little and I was extremely impressed by the national system of childcare/pre-school for all. Not only could my daughter-in-law have a full year off with 80% pay, but when she did go back to work she knew her child was in a supervised, standardized and safe environment. The pre-schools are charged with training children to be good listeners, to follow directions, to work together--but no academic work, as the theory is the majority of their brains are not yet ready for written symbols. When these children enter first grade, at about 7 years, they are more than ready to sit at desks and coordinate eye, hand and pencil. This country also has a firm and enforced policy against bullying so the children grow up feeling safe, relaxed. Children there are considered a major natural resource for the country--and it shows!
Dom (Lunatopia)
@Voyageur we had free preschool in communist poland, i hated it. eventually i convinced my mother to allow me to drop out in the 2nd of 3 years. humans are def a natural resource to sweden because its a socialist system that leeches off its own people. if the govt wants people to leech off of and enslave into their system perhaps they should grow their own children and leave ours alone!
knitfrenzy (NYC)
@Voyageur Sweden also has the highest tax rate in the world - between 53 - 57%. The education & your daughter-in-law's paid year off were financed by fellow citizens. Don't think that would work in the US.
BB (Geneva)
@Dom Sweden is more capitalistic than the United States where monopolies are allowed to form with complete impunity and employees have no health and labor protections. If anyone leeches off of its own, it's the US who feed us the lie that it is the best place on earth, while having us work in ever worsening conditions with declining life expectancy. My own preschool experience was in the firm/rigid french system. They weren't the nicest of people, but they helped me master a language I didn't speak at home, develop beautiful handwriting and give me the foundation to become a strong reader. I am forever grateful and wish every American child could have access to such an incredible opportunity...
Kris (Mankato, MN)
Whether preschool is a good thing or not aside, my comment would be that education of any kind is not anyone's "right". It certainly would be a privilege of citizenship if we would make it the responsibility of government to provide it, but it is never anyone's "right". The only "right" concerning education is parent's ultimate choice concerning the nature of their child's education.
Jack Factor (Delray Beach, Florida)
@Kris Correct, but the prevailing thought today from the left, is that everyone has a "right" to everything. If I want something I can always claim it as a right, just as toddlers who want a toy, throw a temper tantrum if the toy is not their "right." When you eliminate choice you have tyranny. Some of the "elite" will dictate your "rights" but they never want to confront the costs that come with those entitlements. Children's development comes from the parents not from some surrogate.
landless (Brooklyn, New York)
@Kris Parents do not have "rights" to children. Children are not property. Parents have responsibilities to their children, as does society. We have a responsibility to protect children from disease by insisting upon universal vaccination. We have a responsibility to ensure all children reach their potential by providing education and safe, healthy environments. Even if that means removing children from abusive or neglectful parents. Or taxing the childless to fund education, public health, and family leave.
Doug (San Francisco)
@Jack Factor - It's called Entitlement Preference Dysphoria, the pathological confusion of 'things I want' with 'things I'm entitled to.' It often manifests as various claims to 'rights' that are enshrined in no enabling legislation or cultural norm.
See also