42 August 2006
Pre-K: Shaping the System That Shapes Children
Stephen Goldsmith is the Daniel Paul Professor of Government at Harvard
University. Rhonda Meyer is Director of Research at the Alliance for School Choice.
This year, states will add almost one billion
additional education tax dollars to their budgets as
politicians in more than twenty states consider
moving toward a Universal Prekindergarten (UPK)
system. Although a spirited debate has taken place
over the advantages to children of a pre-K education,
there has been little or no debate on how, rather
than whether, to offer early-childhood education
(ECE). Because of this lack of discussion and study,
many states are implementing well-intentioned
policies in a flawed manner that could cause more
harm than benefit.
The availability of prekindergarten education has
increased steadily over the past four decades. While
traditionally, government tailored these programs
specifically for children with various disadvantages,
ranging from socioeconomic to learning disability–
related, there has been increasing interest in recent
years in expanding pre-K opportunities more
universally. A number of factors are responsible for
the nationwide surge in funding for pre-K programs.
These factors include:
- concerns about children's "school
readiness" and subsequent academic
- advances in early brain development
research, which has shed light on the
plasticity and learning capacity of the
- the increasing proportion of working
mothers and their need for child care;
- concerted and well-funded efforts by
pre-K advocacy groups; and
- economist' promotion of pre-K as an
economic development strategy.
Education researchers disagree on the long-term
efficacy of pre-K, but they do generally agree that
children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit
most from high-quality child care and early
education programs. Poor children are more likely
to perform poorly in their classes and on tests of
cognitive ability, repeat grades or drop out of school,
and experience serious emotional and behavioral
problems. The consequences of these failures loom
large on these youth and their communities. The
reported poverty rate among high school dropouts
was 22.2 percent in 2000, compared with a 3.2
percent poverty rate among those with at least a
In this paper, we look at pre-K options in light of
K-12 public education and higher education systems
and consider how best to offer early-childhood
education services to those who need them most.
CREATING A SOLUTION OR A SYSTEM
The United States today provides education in three
distinct models: 1. Community-based not-forprofit,
for-profit, and faith-based organizations
provide two-thirds or more of early care and
education up to age five, with resources allocated
through parental choice. 2. Public schools provide
almost 90 percent of K-12 education, with resources
allocated through school districts. 3. A diverse mix
of public, private, and religious schools typifies the
higher education system, with the resources allocated
by student choice. As state legislators consider
investment in pre-K, the choice of the right model
carries enormous implications not only for parents
and their children but also for the competitiveness
of their state and country in a globalized economy.
The failure of K-12 schools to provide adequate
services to many children underlies many scholarly
and political debates. Observers often focus their
attention on the fact that U.S. students perform
poorly compared with students from other
countries, or they ask why the K-12 system leaves
so many poor children behind. The most recent
trend data from the National Assessment of
Educational Progress (NAEP) suggest that public
school proficiency rates remain low despite some
improvements in benchmark fourth- and eighthgrade
mathematics proficiency and a smaller
improvement in reading proficiency in these same
grades. Major structural problems remain, however,
and the students for whom the system works the
least well are predominantly poor and minority
students. Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of
Education Reform at the University of Arkansas and
a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, found
that in the class of 2003, approximately 78 percent
of white students graduated from high school with
a regular diploma, compared with 55 percent of
black students and 53 percent of Hispanic students.
Though educational prospects have improved
somewhat for black students over the past twenty
years, they still lag behind prospects for white
students, according to data from the National Center
on Education Statistics. For Hispanics, the fastestgrowing
minority group in the United States, there
is little evidence of academic progress.
Reflecting the universal desire to provide highquality
educational options for every child, the
bipartisan "No Child Left Behind" legislation
imposed new accountability requirements on public
schools. One requirement is that public schools
consistently failing the state's performance criteria
must allow students in those schools to transfer to
better-performing public schools if space is available.
Enough space to accommodate all those students
who want to transfer is never available. For example,
in 2002, only 194 slots in better-performing schools
were available to the 30,000 Baltimore
schoolchildren attending failing schools. In Los
Angeles, failing schools enrolled 223,000 students
while no slots were available in better-performing
schools. There is not adequate space in betterperforming
public schools to accommodate demand.
In contrast to this broken system, America's system
of postsecondary education is the world's envy. Here,
students are free to use public funds in the form of
Pell Grants or other similar public stipends at either
public or private institutions. For example, a college
student in Boston can decide for himself whether
to take his publicly funded Pell Grant to the
University of Massachusetts, Boston College,
Brandeis University, or Harvard. Additionally, the
federal government supports tens of thousands of
students through government-subsidized long-term
loans. This demand-side support stimulates a
competitive supply of higher education: a diverse
array of public, private, and religious colleges
available to meet the needs of prospective students.
Moreover, the system adapts and improves in
response to the choices made by students.
Every state today provides funding, often with
substantial federal assistance, for early care and
education. A large portion of these funds supports
work: in a welfare-reform world, single mothers
must work to receive help and cannot work without
child care. Funding for child care in many ways
mirrors higher education support: middle-class
parents receive a tax credit; and lower-income
parents receive vouchers, often with parents paying
Federal Child-Care Efforts
Federal officials made early child care an issue to
reflect the principle that government should support
parents' efforts to enter the workforce. Extensive
government funding subsidizes child care, albeit
insufficiently, so that mothers (i.e., custodial single
parents) with young children can work. Increased
rates of women in the workforce generally drive the
need for affordable child care. To accomplish its goal
of helping mothers work, Congress uses various
federal programs, including the following:
- Child Care Development Block Grant
(CCDBG): CCDBG provides funding of $4.8
billion in the form of vouchers and constitutes
the core child-care program for low-income
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF): States have the option of using their
TANF dollars to provide child-care support over
and above the CCDBG grant. The Center for
Law and Social Policy (CLASP) estimates that,
in 2004, states redirected $3.3 billion in TANF
funds to child care. These funds also flow as
- Dependent Care Tax Credit: The dependent care
tax credit allows parents a credit of up to 30
percent of care (up to almost $5,000 per year for a family with two children). According to
IRS estimates, this benefit equates to about $2.7
billion a year. As a credit, this benefit operates
similar to a voucher, facilitating maximum
- Head Start: This program helps prepare children
for school by funding a broad array of social
and health services. Currently, $6.8 billion is
appropriated for early child care, including
education, nutrition, health, and social services.
This program currently does not provide much
parental choice, and Congress is struggling with
how to create more accountability and better
results in this program.
Other federal programs delivered through states,
such as Title XX and IV-E of the Social Security Act
as well as the 21st Century Community Learning
Centers, also provide some child-care resources,
often for children with special needs or for foster
children or in conjunction with other services.
State Investments in Early Education
Twenty governors mentioned pre-K or earlychildhood education
in their 2005 State of the State addresses, and twenty-six
state legislatures proposed increased investments in their
state's pre-K programs for FY06. Proposed increases to state
budgets for 2006 total just over $600 million, excluding the
Florida effort discussed below, the largest single-year jump
in funding for state pre-K programs since 2001. In comparison,
just eleven governors had proposed increases to their state's
pre-K programs in 2004. Only nine states have no state-funded
pre- K program at all (see Appendix B).
Promotion of these programs generally begins with
recognition of the obstacles facing poor and minority
children, but often extends to universality across all
income groups. In this latter case, advocates argue
for middle-class subsidies not because they are
particularly necessary but because these subsidies
would ensure the durability of assistance to children
who need it most. Such was the rationale leading to
the huge California "Reiner" UPK initiative that
voters rejected in part because it proposed to spend
significant sums on children already enrolled in
parent-pay programs. Thus, research about which
children benefit most from pre-K, voters'
preferences, and state budget constraints all suggest
that priority should be given to children who would
benefit most from early interventions as states move
toward more pre-K funding. This will increase their
opportunities in life and reduce the risk of a
permanent underclass of hopeless and uneducated
No matter how well-intentioned the state officials are in
authorizing such investments, how this new money is spent
carries enormous implications. Funding should be driven through
the existing successful system of high-quality early care
and education. As Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater
Institute, states: "America's flexible approach to early
education gives children a strong foundation. Skills assessment
at kindergarten entry and reports by kindergarten teachers
show a large and increasing majority of preschoolers are prepared
for kindergarten. The effectiveness of the current system
is also evident in early test scores. At age ten, U.S. children
have higher reading, math, and science scores than their European
peers who attend the government preschools cited by advocates
as models for the United States."
As states reach out to help more children, they must
consider a disquieting reality: U.S. students, while
better prepared than most of their international
competitors up to third grade, slip in performance
in public schools as they progress through the
elementary grades. This crucial point leads to two
obvious questions. First, if the early child-care system
works, and the only problem is that children from
economically challenging circumstances cannot
afford high-quality pre-K, why not fund their
participation in the current system? And second,
why combine a currently effective pre-K solution
with an often ineffective K-12 system? Sound policy
would maintain market-based elements of the
existing pre-K and avoid governmentalizing" pre-
K, forcing a delivery model that would be less
effective and potentially disastrous for a number of
reasons, five of which we outline below.
1. Unused capacity currently exists.
To address the problem of limited space, legislators
who are interested in adding two more grades to
the public school system suggest capital programs to help add classrooms, thus increasing the cost
significantly. Pre-K proponents at the National
Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)
note, "New capacity will have to be created as we
move to greater availability of state-funded pre-K."
In contrast, private and community-based providers
possess additional space (around 30 percent more)
for students with vacancy rates in many states. These
public school physical constraints, coupled with the
state and local fiscal constraints, have led some
advocates for increased public investment in early
education to compromise with their legislative
opponents and skeptics by supporting the use of
public funds for these young children to attend
private schools. In nearly every state that decided to
add publicly funded instruction for young children,
physical and fiscal constraints led to some
accommodations, including utilization of private
providers. Many states have chosen to allow for
parental choice through vouchers or tax credits.
Indeed, in the last two years, the Democratic
governors of Pennsylvania, Iowa, and New Mexico
have accepted systems based on vouchers or tax
credits in order to obtain legislative approval of their
proposals for greater investments in early education.
2. Moving four-year-olds to government schools will
be financially crippling for many families.
Child care is expensive—generally ranging from $5,000
to $8,000 per year. This already considerable expense will
increase appreciably for younger children if four-year-olds
leave for government schools. A state program that provides
early education only in the public schools will draw fouryear-
olds into “free” government schools. This is bad
news for small community child-care providers and parents
of children under four because such a policy will put some
providers out of business while driving up child-care costs
for parents. This cost shifting occurs because "free"
pre-K will drive up already high vacancy rates in many centers
and because state regulations increase teacher-pupil ratios
as a child's age increases. The majority of states (twenty-eight)
require a staff-child ratio of 1:10 (or better) for threeand
four-year-olds, while infant ratios are generally set at 1:3.
The presence of four-year-olds helps offset the higher costs
for younger children. This threat recently led an official
of a National Council of La Raza affiliate to express concerns
that if California causes four-year-olds to leave Latino community-based
providers for public school, it is reasonable to expect that
many earnest and caring
family centers would be forced to close their doors.
3. Students benefit from the parental involvement that
Facilitating parental involvement enhances educational outcomes.
A Georgia State University report noted that parental involvement
during prekindergarten "can promote children's school
readiness and is associated with higher academic achievement
and fewer behavior problems through adolescence, at least
in low-income families. It can also lead to greater parental
involvement in elementary school, which is associated with
higher achievement for children of all socioeconomic backgrounds."
Harvard University's Robert Putnam, the social capital expert
and author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American
Community, notes: "Kindergarten reform was brought to
the U.S. at the turn of the last century and was initially
a great source of social capital, entirely nongovernmental
in sponsorship. (The 'teachers' were all passionate volunteers
and they sponsored classes and clubs for moms while the kids
were attending the classes.) However, once the program was
transferred into the public school system, the professional
pressures from regular teachers led to the kindergarten teachers
having to become more 'professional' and less sensitive to
the social dimensions of what they were doing, and ancillary
activities (mothers' clubs and so on) were greatly reduced."
These observations, of course, do not lead to the conclusion
that states should eliminate funding for pre-K and reinstate
sheer volunteerism, but rather the realization that how a
state delivers earlychildhood education will affect parental
participation. The issue is simply who should tell a four-year-old
where to go to school: the state or his parents. If parents
retain the right, they will be more involved in the school.
This participation results both from convenience, such as
the school's distance from work or home, and from the personal
responsibility that flows from the selection. Sometimes advocates
for UPK fail to recognize the real-life needs of families.
It should be clear that a four-year-old’s education
cannot be configured separately from other essential family
concerns, such as child care, transportation, individual characteristics
of the child, and sibling issues. Allowing parents to choose
where their children attend school recognizes that these factors
play an important part in determining whether a working mother
can participate. School selection represents an important
first step in connecting family and school.
4. Families need discretion in deciding what is best for
Families face very different circumstances. Allowing
a choice of schools facilitates the best solution for
each parent. As stated by the advocacy group Pre-K
Now, "Families may select a private or non-profit
center-based program that also offers care before and
after the pre-K program hours, is located near their
work or a grandparent, or provides a special
Montessori or Reggio Emilio program." Parents will
more easily be able to blend the multiple ECE
funding streams when they have maximum choice.
Recent surveys reflect overwhelming voter support for parental
choice, suggesting the significance of deferring to parents
on the issue of placement. In a poll conducted by United Ways
of Texas, 67.9 percent of Texas voters agreed that delivering
statefunded high-quality prekindergarten education programs
in settings other than school buildings is important.
Community Solutions of Ohio commissioned a similar poll that
revealed an even greater interest in the preservation of choice
in pre- K delivery: 74 percent of Ohioans surveyed believe
that state-funded early care and education programs should
be available in a setting other than a school building.
5. Competition produces quality.
Contemporary research indicates that competition has a positive
impact on educational quality. A recent study found that the
positive effects extend to both private and public schools
and that both 'appeared to respond to the incentives of competition."
Not all parents need to be informed consumers to create
sufficient competitive pressure to force continuous school
improvement. Informed, marginal shoppers can influence quality
across a delivery system. Like marginal consumers, parents
visit schools, ask questions, and evaluate performance criteria
in order to choose a school for their children.
Their informed behavior affects the marketplace disproportionately
as schools strive to respond to these parents. Assigning children
to a government school would erode this healthy competition.
Market competition also causes providers to differentiate
their products. For young children, the research on what works
and exactly how it works continues to evolve. This is one
reason that parents intuitively choose so many different approaches
for their young children. Different approaches work for different
children. Public schools rely on administrative and political
structures to establish teaching techniques and curriculum
and arrive at a narrow set of standardized approaches to apply
across state schools. Many scholars argue that bureaucratic
rules and political interest groups restrict government schools
from appropriately tailoring pedagogy and curriculum. Conversely,
scholars argue that private schools are more responsive and
effective at teaching because they must react more directly
to parental demands as translated through the marketplace.
Given the rich variety of instructional approaches for young
children, avoiding this bureaucratic hindrance should be a
fundamental consideration when a state chooses an approach
to pre-K. Competition guarantees that the education market
will address all niches.
While a large body of research supports
the need for greater competition in the K-12
education system, the pre-K system operates in an entirely
dissimilar political and institutional framework, where competition
currently reigns. Legislators and governors thus face the
question of whether they should facilitate the existing competitive
market or "governmentalize" the whole pre-K system.
WHAT STATES SHOULD DO
Any state's answer to the "how to offer pre-K" question should build
upon the rich competition that now exists and should be modeled
after the current U.S. higher education system. Over 80 percent
of children receive early care and education in nongovernmental
centers. In fact, "the vast majority (29) of states with
a program are delivering prekindergarten according to …
[a] mixed-delivery model that includes schools and community-based
settings (and) privately operated child care."
The proposed investments in pre-K by states across the country
can greatly affect the direction of this educational market.
A government agency involved in the delivery of a public
service, except in unusual circumstances, cannot fairly administer
a competitive system. Successful private and community-based
education reduces the demand for supply from government schools,
and vice versa. In the competitive outsourcing world, a major
challenge in conducting public-private competition is attempting
to create an arm's-length transaction between the purchaser
and the provider. There must be a distinction between the
in-house department and public employees who oversee competition
and monitor subsequent service delivery (the purchaser) and
the in-house department and public employees who compete to
provide the service (the provider). To ensure the integrity
of public-private competition, in-house departments and public
employees should not perform both purchaser and provider functions.
William Eggers, of Deloitte Consulting and a public-private
partnership expert, concludes: "For managed competition
to be perceived as equitable by the private sector, a firewall
must be created between the government as purchaser and government
as service provider. From the private sector's standpoint,
organizational separation is essential to maintaining confidence
that the public sector is serious about having a level playing
field. The best way to create a firewall between the government
as purchaser and the in-house unit provider is to institutionally
separate the purchaser and provider…. The purchaser/provider
split allows policymakers to receive more objective policy
Whether in education or other public services, systems in
which a provider can authorize, license, and regulate its
competition undermine many would-be competitors in the public
sector. These include charter schools restricted by their
chartering boards from fully and fairly competing against
government schools; and transportation agencies, such as Caltrans,
that change rules for outside providers bidding on a contract.
In education, regulatory neutrality is required to establish
a market that helps parents make the best decisions for their
Public schools benefit from the advantages of no
taxation, subsidized overhead, and the donation of
certain indirect costs such as custodial services and,
often, pensions. A more troublesome advantage,
however, is the fact that in some states, government
schools may receive funds to build new classrooms
when an oversupply of spaces with licensed childcare
providers already exists. Funding schools instead
of education wastes tax dollars. If a supply shortage
exists, the per-diem payment could be set in a way
that sustains the borrowing necessary to build new
classrooms. Given state resource limitations,
wrestling pre-K into government-run schools, while
ignoring existing capacity, makes little sense,
especially if the government-run schools threaten
the viability of private providers. The best way to
take advantage of current capacity, while controlling
costs, is through a publicly funded system of choice
that would allow parents to choose the best earlychildhood
education environment for their children,
whether run by a government, nonprofit, or forprofit
provider, so long as the provider complies with
States should build upon the foundation of the existing
early care and education system. At the same time, every effort
should be made to maximize the public goals—to better
prepare children for a lifetime of learning and advancement—that
justify new early-childhood education expenditures. This approach
recognizes the shift in government from sole monopolistic
provider to catalyst for a network of providers, utilizing
private funding and mixing it with funding from state, local,
and federal governments. Such "governance by network"
typically includes measurable performance goals, assigned
responsibilities for each partner, and the structured flow
of information across public and private boundaries. The ultimate
goal is to produce enhanced public value far greater than
the sum of what government—or any of the other players—could
accomplish without collaboration.
Networkcentric governance entails vast benefits, including
specialization, innovation, flexibility, and increased reach,
as well as serious challenges. To meet challenges, government
needs to ensure quality, affordability, and access instead
of controlling the delivery system itself. Managing the network
requires different technical skills for state officials. A
government manager's job used to be relatively straightforward
management of a program or service. Professionalism meant
applying rules in a systematic, standardized, and highly structured
manner. By comparison, managing in a networked environment
demands an entirely different set of competencies, including
the ability to negotiate, to manage variations across boundaries,
and to encourage flexibility while demanding accountability.
In this new approach to governance, states investing resources
in pre-K should consider the following issues to maximize
- Educational standard setting. States
assuming that inputs lead to quality
outcomes may overregulate the pre-K
system. Extremely low teacher-student
ratios, for example, often drive up costs
substantially for parents—without
producing better educational results.
California previously experienced a teacher
shortage and eroded education quality
because of this type of overregulation.
- Visibility and transparency. Better access
to information produces better decisions,
which reduces risk. Greater transparency
allows government officials to monitor
services with clarity and immediacy. Parents
need accessible, comprehensible, and
comprehensive information relating to pre-
K providers. The state needs to produce disaggregated online
information to help parents choose providers based on qualitative
- Health and safety. In states today, an
extensive regulatory and inspection regime
exists regarding health and safety
requirements for child-care centers; these
requirements should suffice for pre-K as
well. Rational regulations, fairly enforced,
will facilitate quality.
- Assessments. State funding of pre-K
should require simple assessments. In this way, quality
outcome data would be available to help parents choose schools
while helping regulators identify and terminate inadequate
programs. Dr. Susan Landry of the University of Texas developed
a promising outcome assessment that uses results from teacher-conducted
assessments produced from an easy-to-use, handheld, wireless
device with carefully monitored and evaluated data.
- Citizen-centric systematization. In setting
up a new state system, public officials need
to be sensitive to the great variety of parental
circumstances. Generally, government
organizes these processes for the
convenience of the bureaucracy, not of the
citizens. Officials make decisions based on
the prerequisites of the agency without
regard for customer needs, while driving up
their costs. A system that allows parents to
make informed choices, while providing
maximum flexibility and variety, would
fulfill this goal.
- Accountability. State and local officials
must insist on accountability when private
providers use public funds. A state-operated
back-office system attached to new devices
can track which child is in which school
each day through a smart card, providing
tracking, financial record keeping, ease of
payment, and management reports that can
be distributed to applicable contract
monitors. Advancements in technology
allow for accountability that was impossible
a few years ago. A state can set up one
system that supports and monitors the
results in all schools, whether public or
private, using data generated as parents
swipe their cards at the provider when
checking in a child for the day.
Across the country, politicians and academics
continue to debate the efficacy of universal pre-K
services while expending little or no energy on the
fundamental question of how to provide these early
education services. Policymakers can expand the
current open market while insisting on high
standards and helping parents become informed
consumers (resembling the higher education model),
or they can incorporate these three- and four-yearolds
into the existing K-12 system. These are highstakes
questions, not just in terms of dollars but also
in terms of human capital development. U.S.
children, most of whom start in private early child
care and education, outperform much of the world
until the third grade; but these same U.S. children
slip against the global benchmarks almost every year
from third grade to eighth grade in the public K-12
system. Yet, curiously, in many states, lobbyists and
legislators push for funding to flow to these
underperforming school districts to expand their "markets" to include three- and four-year-olds.
Education policy and experience suggest that
government does more good by establishing rules
and assessment procedures, providing information,
and funding children, than by using its power to
override parental choices by inducing young
children to attend government-run schools. Further,
when government asserts itself over parents in
choices concerning very young children, it intrudes
on fundamental family decisions. It
counterproductively distances parents from their
children's schooling and undermines the benefits of
substantial state investments.
The current decentralized pre-K system produces
good results. By maximizing the current mixeddelivery
system for pre-K services, aligning it more
closely with the successful system of higher
education than the K-12 system, everyone will
benefit. Such a solution ensures that quality
community centers will remain in business, poor
children will get a better start toward college and
work, and parents will exercise important control
over and participation in the education of their
children. Children facing the challenges of poverty
or difficult family circumstances need more help
not fewer options.
CUMULATIVE PRE-K FUNDING IN 50 STATES AND D.C.
Source: Info from Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2006, Pre-K Now, November 2005.
TABLE1. ANTICIPATED FUNDING CHANGES FOR FY 2006
Most info from Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2006, Pre-K Now, November 2005.
“GOVERNMENTALIZATION” OF PRE-K
Some of the nation's most effective advocates for
universal pre-K programs also support legislative and
regulatory requirements sure to increase the
government's role in early education programs. For
example, the National Institute for Early Education
Research (NIEER) has created a "quality pre-K
checklist," by which it has begun rating all statefunded
pre-K programs. Not surprisingly, the areas
of focus all involve the potential or necessity for
greater government involvement in the enterprise
of pre-K. Its checklist values inputs such as class
size, staff-child ratios, professional development
requirements, curriculum standards, and the
provision of family support services. These items
are traditionally part of the inputs used to assess
government programs; they are not necessarily the
criteria used by parents to assess the outcomes of
private education programs.
In comparing the NIEER checklist with our own
recommendations, it is clear that the NIEER
standards focus on setting educational standards and
issues of health and safety. The checklist does not
create visibility and transparency in the pre-K
system; it neither suggests appropriate assessments,
such as DIBELS, nor addresses the needs of various
parents who would be interested in accessing pre-K
services. A system that maximizes parental
involvement by allowing them to choose the right
early educational environment for their children will
prove to be the most transparent, providing the
information necessary for informed decisions. Two
examples of successful pre-K choice are evident in
Florida and New Jersey.
FLORIDA'S VOLUNTARY PRE-K PROGRAM
The 2005–06 school year marked the beginning of Florida's
Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program.
Mandated by a 2002 voter-approved constitutional amendment,
VPK allows parents to send their children to any private or
public pre-K program free of charge. In December 2004, the
Florida legislature enacted the largest parental-choice pre-K
program in the nation. Children can receive $2,500 each to
attend public or private pre-K programs. When summer 2006
enrollments are included in first-year enrollment figures,
the number of children benefiting from VPK services will top
100,000. The bulk of these children, more than 85,000, attend
private preschools. A school-year program consists of 540
instructional hours, and a summer program consists of 300
hours. Parents have complete control over which provider to
use. Private providers must have state-approved accreditation,
a Gold Seal Quality Care designation, or the approval
of a local early-learning coalition.
NEW JERSEY'S COURT-ORDERED VOUCHERS
In 1998, the New Jersey Supreme Court cited the
need for early education to remedy the
socioeconomic disadvantages of low-income
children living in thirty urban districts and equalize
the educational starting points of urban three- and
four-year-olds with their suburban peers. The court
further stipulated that the program should be
implemented with all speed and that local providers
be used whenever possible. Early on, providers were
almost entirely private, though the public schools
have since begun participating. Providers upgraded
curricula and facilities to enhance early education.
Parents choose the provider, space permitting,
though the district remains the fiscal custodian of
- Stephen Goldsmith is also associated with Knowledge Learning
Corporation, a private provider of early childhood education
- G. Duncan and J. Brooks-Gunn, Consequences of Growing
Up Poor (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997).
- D. T. Lichter and M. L. Crowley, “Poverty in America:
Beyond Welfare Reform,” Population Bulletin 57,
no. 2 (2002).
- NAEP results available online at: http://www.nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard.
- Michele Friedman, Coalition of Human Needs, as cited
in the Almanac of Policy Issues, available online at: http://www.policyalmanac.org/social_welfare/childcare.shtml.
- "Child Care Assistance in 2004: States
Have Fewer Funds for Child Care," Center for Law and
Social Policy, December 1, 2005.
- Child Care and Development Fund, Fiscal
Year 2005, Administration for Children and Families, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.
- Federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit,
Total Spending 2002, National Center for Children in Poverty,
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
- Head Start Program Fact Sheet, Fiscal
Year 2006, Administration for Children and Families, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.
- Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year
2006, Pre-K Now, November 2005.
- Child Care and Development Fund, Fiscal
Year 2005, Administration for Children and Families, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.
- Steven Barnett, Jason T. Hustedt, Kenneth
B. Robin, and Karen L. Schulman, The State of Preschool:
2005 State Preschool Yearbook, National Institute for
Early Education Research (Rutgers, N.J., 2005).
- "Parental Involvement in Early Childhood
Education,” Georgia State University, 1997, available
- Electronic communication with Robert Putnam,
- "A Survey of
Voter Attitudes on Pre-K Education in Texas," United
Ways of Texas, March 2006.
- "Community Solutions
of Ohio Poll," Community Solutions of Ohio, August
- Gary T. Henry and Craig S. Gordon, "Competition
in the Sandbox: A Test of the Effects of Preschool Competition
on Educational Outcomes," Journal of Policy Analysis
and Management 25, no. 1 (November
- Mark Schneider, Paul Teske, and Melissa
Marschall, Choosing Schools: Consumer Choice and the
Quality of American Schools, (2002): 790.
- J. E. Chubb and T. M. Moe, "Politics,
Markets, and the Organization of Schools," American
Political Science Review 82 (1988): 1065–87.
- Marketdata Enterprises, 2004.
- Rachel Schumacher, Danielle Ewen, Katernine
Hart, and Joan Lombardi, "All Together Now: State Experiences
in Using Community-Based Child Care to Provide Prekindergarten,"
Center for Law and Social Policy, May 2005.
- Lawrence L. Martin, "Avoiding Ethical
Problems in Public-Private Competitions,"
Reason Public Policy Institute , Privatization Watch,
- William D. Eggers, "Competitive Neutrality:
Ensuring a Level Playing Field in Managed
Competitions," Reason Public Policy Institute How-to-Guide,
no. 18 (March 1998): 30.
- Ibid., 29.
- Stephen Goldsmith and William D. Eggers,
Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector
(Brookings Institution Press, 2004).
- For an example, see:
- State Center for Early Childhood Development,
available online at: http://www.uth.tmc.edu/circle/index.html.
- Learn more online at: http://www.vpkflorida.org.