As part of our three-part series on early learning, Education Lab recently asked readers to share their thoughts on the idea of expanded pre-K and whether a city-sponsored program would meet the needs of their families.
We received dozens of thoughtful responses to our call out. What follows is the two questions that appeared on the questionnaire, and a selection of reader answers. Some responses have been edited for length or clarity.
Q: Do you agree preschool should be a universal offering, available to all families regardless of income? Why or why not?
Yes, as long as it is actually universal. I do not believe in the middle class subsidizing the poor while still having to pay full or marginally reduced price for my own children. I have 3-year-old twins, and this is of great interest and importance to me. I will most likely vote against the subsidized pre-K initiative.
— Scott Jeffries, Seattle
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No. I think we should spend our taxpayer money on boosting the quality of our elementary through high-school education instead. We need smaller classrooms and more individual help for students who need it — too many are falling through the cracks. We should still keep Head Start for the under-privileged.
— Lisa Stultz, Anacortes
Yes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our schools turn themselves and their budgets inside out to deal with children who arrive in kindergarten unprepared for school. If we spend on preschool, we save every single year afterward as they progress through the education system. It’s an investment in the purest sense, with a heavily studied return on investment which is realized in real, hard public dollars saved.
— Neel Blair, Seattle
Preschool could be an offering but only through a school district, not the City of Seattle. Isn’t that why school districts were created — to provide education?
The number of children served in the city’s proposed program is relatively small. It is not cost effective relative to taxing property owners.
— Kevin Bergsrud, Seattle
Honestly, I’m on the fence, and I’m a big believer in early learning.
Conceptually, I’m on board with readily accessible and affordable for all, but I question investing too much in formal pre-K without changes in the K-12 system, primarily around social-emotional learning and behavior support, and ready access to things like arts education and project-based learning.
Pervasive, entrenched understanding of what children need, from day one, is what we need. Our youngest need our time, our interaction. Policies that allow parents the time and flexibility to be with their babies, toddlers and pre-school aged kids are JUST as important as access to pre-school. I would argue, even more important. But where is the accompanying policy to support extended leave, or flex time?
Nowhere. Instead the policy focuses on what we can do without the parents. And that troubles me.
I worry that we’re institutionalizing childhood for the “underprivileged,” and that we’re leaving parents on the sidelines.
— Ramona Hattendorf, Seattle
No. In my own experience, having two kids who attended preschool, I saw that though my kids had fun, they did not receive any education or additional school readiness. My daughter found friends at preschool but didn’t receive any ‘education’ there. My son also had fun playing there but was not educated. He still did not know how to write when he entered kindergarten and was one of the slowest to learn, but now six years later he has caught up and surpassed many of his peers and is doing great in school and life.
— Sylvia Schweinberger, Seattle
Children who go into kindergarten should have some basic skills under their belt — basic letters, numbers, shapes, animals and colors. Children who do not have these skills because they did not attend preschool are slowing down the learning for the children who either did have preschool or an adult took the time to prepare them.
This is happening to my 5 year old, who is bored to tears in school. She was excited about learning to read, but I am not told she will know 10 sight words ending this year, not reading as my first child did.
The world really needs to take a step back and stop saying, ‘these are not my children, why should I pay for them to get an education,’ and realize these children are our future! It is neither fair to ‘our’ children or our world to leave children behind.
— Michele Evans, Auburn
Q: If you were the parent of a 4-year-old, would you send him or her to a city-sponsored pre-K program? Why or why not?
I would put my kid in a program if I got to choose the program. I would not put my kid in a program deemed high quality by the city if it didn’t align with my values. I want to choose a program with a curriculum I like, not one chosen by the city for the disadvantaged families.
— Kathy Yasi, Seattle
Not at this time. We are fortunate to be able to afford high quality preschool, and until time has shown that the city is able to provide quality preschool, I would continue to go private.
— Lara Deits, Seattle
Yes. If I pay taxes for it, I’m going to use it.
— Sarah Mitchel, Seattle