“Preschool for All” or Preschool for the Needy?

Elizabeth Rose

in The Promise of Preschool

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780195395075
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199775767 | DOI:
“Preschool for All” or Preschool for the Needy?

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As advocates and policymakers at the state level sought to translate the promise of preschool into practice, they had to wrestle with the practical question of whether their preschool programs should serve all children or be targeted to the neediest. The idea that universal programs would be more politically popular and result in higher quality programs was not always a useful guide in practice. Attempts to enact universal pre‐kindergarten in California, Virginia, and other states ran into opposition precisely because the idea of providing “preschool for all” seemed a questionable use of public dollars when many families were already paying to send their children to private preschools. Not only was the promise of broad political support often misleading, but so was the promise that universal programs would necessarily produce higher quality than targeted ones. In practice, the universal preschool programs that states have designed have had mixed success at generating broad political support and high quality standards, while more incremental efforts to expand targeted programs have been quite successful.

Keywords: targeted; universal; California; Florida; Illinois; Tennessee

Chapter.  9010 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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