Currently, public education in the U.S. stars with kindergarten, typically around age 5 or 6. But research tells us that kids succeed in school when they have access to early education, typically starting around ages 3 or 4. However, in most states -- actually, all but four plus Washington, D.C. -- access to a preschool education is limited to those who can afford it. A lack of universal preschool is driving the economic and racial divide that the U.S. education system is already ailing from.
There is a simple solution, though, and one county in Oregon just embraced it in this past election -- Portland and its surrounding county will guarantee Preschool for All!
But it's not just the children in Multnomah County, Oregon that deserve the promise of early education -- it's every kid in the United States. Sign the petition asking every single U.S. state that does not provide public preschool to adopt the policy immediately!
Right now, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Vermont, and Florida are the only states that provide universal preschool access to their kids, as well as Washington D.C. Like Multnomah, some counties in the country have taken it upon themselves to do what their states won't. But the gaps in this system are undeniable, so it just makes sense for early public education to be mandated on a state level. Every state means every kid!
Decades and decades of numbers tell us that early access to education sets kids on a path for success -- 86% of kids in D.C., for example, finished their guaranteed preschool programs at levels showing they were ready for kindergarten. But because universal preschool isn't everywhere in the U.S., only about half of age-eligible kids actually attend preschool at all.
Without universal preschool, low income families and communities without easy access to programs or facilities -- most often rural communities or communities of color -- are the ones punished. Single parent households, guardians who are hourly workers, folks who have kids but whose jobs do not provide them maternity or paternity leave or other benefits -- these are the families whose kids need some extra support. But instead, because of the increasing cost of preschool and early childcare, their kids are shut out from opportunities. This feeds the already raging monster that is inequity in the United States' educational system, which easily makes the leap to the professional market. It is the beginning of a heinous, unjust cycle.
Universal preschool not only enriches kids' lives and prepares them for success in their school years; it provides desperately needed childcare for working families, for whom the difference of missing a shift could mean losing their home or having their lights shut off. It also evens out inequality in the workforce, since primary caregivers -- i.e. those who stay home and provide free labor in the form of childcare and home management -- are more often women. The female workforce grows when universal preschool is present.Children cannot choose into what circumstances they are born. But their communities can choose to support them, no matter those circumstances. Sign the petition in support of every U.S. state adopting preschool for all!