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Public Preschool Means Fewer Kids in Juvey, More in College

One way South Dakota could support children and families is by jumping on board with President Joe Biden’s plan to offer public preschool to all little ones age 3 to 5. The New York Times reports this morning on a new study from MIT of lifetime outcomes for 4,000 four-year-olds randomly assigned to public preschool in Boston from 1997 through 2003. While the kids who attended preschool didn’t show clear gains in standardized test scores (and, say it with me: test scores schmest schcores!), the MIT study shows those preschoolers scoring better on more meaningful metrics:

The winners were less likely to be suspended in high school and less likely to be sentenced to juvenile incarceration. Nearly 70 percent of lottery winners graduated from high school, compared with 64 percent of lottery losers, which is a substantial difference for two otherwise similar groups. The winners were also more likely to take the S.A.T., to enroll in college and — though the evidence is incomplete, because of the students’ age — to graduate from college [David Leonhardt, “The Power of Pre-K,” New York Times, 2021.05.10].

We don’t have to require everyone to send their kids to public preschool. But if we open the door for everyone to do so by investing $20 billion a year (“less than 1/30th of what the federal government spends on Medicare,” Leonhardt notes), we get fewer kids in trouble and more kids in college, not to mention more parents able to work and spend more of their money on useful things other than daycare.

2 Comments

  1. Eve Fisher 2021-05-10 10:59

    As you point out, preschool is something that has been researched and studied. It would be a literal life-saver for many. But the cry from the right will be all about how much it costs, ignoring the fact that prison costs infinitely more.

  2. Mark Anderson 2021-05-10 16:46

    Of course preschool is the answer for many problems, just busting the lights to get our daughter to preschool and to work was tough and then wondering if the place was really ok. What did they do during the day? It was mostly advanced babysitting, but it was needed. Of course it cost too much which meant the tradeoff was nominal for us but we both had to work to make it. The United States should have worked this out decades ago but you know who opposes anything that looks like cradle to grave government. Republicans will be the downfall of America, but it still is nice to have the culture change toward reason isn’t it?

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