Universal Pre-K in the New York Times Biz Section
"Bridging Gaps Early On in Oklahoma" was the title of David Leonhardt's New York Times column yesterday. He writes very enthusiastically about a program that DMI's been extolling the virtues of for a while; Oklahoma's Universal Pre-K program. (to learn more about unniversal pre-k you can download or stream video or audio of DMI's Marketplace of Ideas event featuring the State Senator responsible for Oklahoma's program).
Leonhardt writes about how Oklahoma's program, the gold standard in high-quality, universal access to preschool has been a success in helping prepare young kids to do well in school and in life. A study by Nobel Prize winning economist James J. Heckman showed that spending on preschool ultimately pays for itself because it increases workforce productivity and reduces crime. Similarly The Pew Charitable Trusts have issued numerous studies demonstrating the lasting value that preschool education gives children and their communities. Check out "Economic Benefits of Quality Preschool Education for America's 3- and 4-Year Olds" and this one on "Why All Children Benefit from Pre-K".
The benefits of pre-k aren't just for children. Access to low or no cost preschool is key for helping working families keep their jobs and sanity and preschool can make or break a parent's ability to move from welfare to economic stability (how can you look for work or keep your job if you have nowhere safe and nurturing for your child to be all day?). Leonhardt wisely alludes to the implications of universal pre-k as a pro-family values policy and pro-work/life balance:
consider what has happened in the last generation: millions of women have entered the work force, making child care a real challenge for many families, and a deluge of scientific studies has pointed to the importance of early learning. Yet most states have done almost nothing to respond to the changes.
Amen my friend. And its not just the state but the federal government that needs to get with the times. They may want to pay attention to this proven program that helps families and helps close the education gap at the same time.
(photo is of retired State Senator Penny Williams of Oklahoma at DMI's Marketplace of Ideas event)