Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Pre-K a fine investment


President Joe Biden’s massive American Jobs Plan is likely to come in two parts: a traditiona­l transporta­tion package as well as a domestic package that includes, among other priorities, universal pre-kindergart­en.

It’s is an education initiative deserving of broad support.

The National Institute for Early Education Research released a study at the end of March claiming that universal high-quality pre-K is attainable within three decades if the federal government partners with state and local government­s to share costs.

Such investment could expand pre-K offerings to millions of additional children, granting a wider swath of the population a head start. Pre-K programs also afford greater opportunit­y for health interventi­ons like screenings for communitie­s with less access to doctors.

Biden’s pledge would help ensure equal access to preschool, benefiting children and parents alike. This access creates a ripple effect. Experts chalk up some of the benefits of pre-K to the importance of having reliable day care even more so than the explicit value of a formal educationa­l environmen­t. Consistent and quality child care frees both parents to work more easily or pursue higher education and, thereby, increase their earning potential over time. That can lead to better outcomes for children, especially those in lower-income families.

Opponents of universal preschool generally cite the costs as prohibitiv­e and point to the dissipatio­n of educationa­l benefits. But this ignores the fact that in the long run, providing universal preschool should pay dividends for itself in terms of reducing incarcerat­ion and addiction rates. Current data indicate that the children who attend preschool are more likely to succeed and become productive members of society.

Some cities and states already offer free pre-K. Scaling these programs to the national level and standardiz­ing the offerings wouldn’t require parents to enroll their children if they prefer not to, but making the program available is an important step toward providing equal opportunit­y to all of America’s children.

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