The Pre-K Pinch: Early Education and the Middle Class

Nov 01, 2008

For middle-class families that earn too much to qualify for state-run pre-kindergarten programs, private early education and care is among the most onerous expenses. By providing high-quality, voluntary pre-k to all three- and four-year-olds, policymakers can help these strapped families to enhance their children’s school readiness.

States have increased their investments in public pre-k programs by almost 37 percent since 2005, and enrollment increased in the same time by about 28 percent.  But unlike K-12 education, state pre-k remains a program primarily for low-income children.  Of the 38 states that fund pre-k programs, 20 use family income as an important or sole criterion for eligibility.

One assumption underlying this policy decision is that such families can afford other kinds of early education and care programs. Another is that children from these families don’t need and wouldn’t benefit significantly from pre-k. Overwhelming evidence indicates, however, that neither of these assumptions is valid,

Through quantitative and anecdotal evidence, “The Pre-K Pinch: Early Education and the Middle Class,” demonstrates that high-quality pre-k benefits all children, families, and society. The report also provides recommendations for policymakers to aid them in providing financial relief to middle-class families.

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