Maria Fitzpatrick, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, has published several studies on early childhood education and the effects of universal pre-K education, and is available to discuss President Obama’s push for more pre-K programs.
“Universal preschool does increase enrollment in preschool, but only by about 15 percent. What this suggests is a large amount of spending on the programs - over 80 percent - goes to pay for preschool for families who would send their kids anyway and whose children likely have little to gain from participation. As such, the programs represent a large payment or subsidy to middle- and upper-income families.”
“While the long-term success of these interventions at improving life outcomes of participating children has been widely accepted, the programs were costly at anywhere from $16,000 to $41,000 per child. Such costs are too high for state governments to fund similar intensive interventions for all residents, so the programs implemented by states often wind up looking very different than what we know works. Policymakers today, therefore, face a trade-off: provide comprehensive intensive early childhood interventions targeted at disadvantaged children or institute smaller-scale education-based Universal Preschool programs.
“Evidence suggests that universal preschool has short-run positive effects on academic achievement for children, but the longer term results show that only some children gain - disadvantaged children, particularly those in rural areas - and that the effects fade out over time. Other children, those from middle- and upper-income families, see no benefit or negative effects from the programs.”
More information on Fitzpatrick’s research:
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