Universal Pre-school Provides a Path Toward Reducing Inequality


by Erica Turret

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Public education has served as the gateway to the American Dream for millions of low-income children. But now with income inequality rising, partly due to large disparities in education, it is more important than ever to re-evaluate the extent to which the United States is ensuring its golden promise—the equality of opportunity. Without universal pre-school, millions of children currently start elementary school at a severe disadvantage lacking the same socialization and academic readiness as their peers.

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced his proposal for universal pre-school education. Americans should support this proposal and work toward expanding Head Start, the federally funded early childhood education program that currently provides free pre-school for 900,000 disadvantaged youth. These programs create new ways for low-income children to get that same “head start” as their wealthier future classmates.

Pre-school serves as the foundation for all future learning. From learning phonics to developing an imagination, early childhood education is extremely important in future success.  As competition increases both inside and outside the classroom from a very young age, it is important that children from lower income families are not prevented from competing on a level playing field upon entering kindergarten.

Today, we see children receiving entirely inequitable educations in our public schools. Our government should work from the bottom up to reduce educational inequality, which will help to reduce all inequality in future generations. This starts with universal pre-school. All children should have the opportunity to learn and to grow. In an era of globalization, all American children need every advantage they can get in the global marketplace, not just the lucky few whose parents can afford private pre-school.

By 1918, all states provided public schools and required children to attend elementary school to educate the citizenry. In five years, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of universal compulsory public elementary education in the United States. In the 21st century, we know that childhood development at an early age is vital and now, because of our nation’s progress, we have the resources and the ethical and economic imperative to fulfill President Obama’s goal of providing universal pre-school to all children.

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