By Teresa Welsh |
One of the centerpieces of Mayor Bill de Blasio's successful campaign in New York City was a proposal to fund universal pre-kindergarten with higher taxes on the rich. "We're ready to offer high-quality, full-day, universal pre-K this September for 53,000 New York City children," de Blasio said during a press conference this week, even as his plan for a tax increase has run into stiff opposition.
And de Blasio isn't alone in pushing for government funded universal pre-K, as President Obama has also unveiled a proposal to provide pre-school to every four-year-old from low- and moderate-income families. "The size of your paycheck shouldn't determine your child's future," Obama said. "Let's make sure none of our kids start out the race of life a step behind."
But lawmakers have so far not moved on Obama's request. "I think we should always be talking about [pre-K] but I think we have a better way to do it than a big promise from Washington," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
And some experts question whether universal pre-K is actually the remedy lawmakers claim it is. "Universal pre-K is not a wise use of public resources," said the Brookings Institution's Ron Haskins, because such an effort is "going to waste a lot of money on families that don't need it." Others, though, say the benefit of providing universal early education outweighs the cost. "I don't believe there are silver bullets. But pre-K is like the lead-off hitter in baseball. The role of the lead-off hitter is to get on base and lay a foundation for what everyone else on the team does. That's what a good early childhood education program can do," said Georgetown University Professor William Gormley.
So should the government fund universal pre-K? Here is the Debate Club's take: