In President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, he outlined a proposal for the federal government to assist American states in funding preschool programs. He wants to guarantee preschool at age four for all American children, no matter their background.
No president has seriously tried to pitch universal preschool, or a similarly ambitious plan for early educationsince 1971.
President Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Feb. 12. (Photo: WikiCommons)
On Feb. 12, Obama said: “Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”
The president is not expected to go into details about how much his new proposal will cost but his aides stressed that the new programs would not add to America’s nearly $16.5 trillion debt.
Educators generally support this initiative. It has long been believed that providing a quality childhood education offers the best chance for students, especially those from low-income families to make up the gap between themselves and more advantaged students.
Obama told the nation of his plan to achieve universal preschool in America, in his State of the Union address. (Photo: WikiCommons)
Some lawmakers are questioning the effectiveness of Obama's proposed state-level education programs. Previously, they have not been well-utilized. In the state of Georgia, for example, only six out of ten pre-kindergarten eligible students are enrolled.
Currently, eleven states don't have state-funded preschool programs. Obama's plan would incentivize those states to start them up, but the states would still have to build state-funded preschool programs from the bottom up in order to be eligible for federal funds.
Obama's universal preschool plan is nothing new. It is very similar to Denmark's current education system in the fact that the schools are state-funded and that it is mandatory for all.
Universal preschool is not an issue in Denmark because education is compulsory for all children ages 6 to 16. Denmark also does not have a problem funding their schools because they are 80% funded by state grants. The other funding comes from participant fees.
In Denmark, most children go to preschool at the age of five or six. Obama is proposing children start preschool as young as four.
Unlike in America, there is a large focus on learning social skills, motor skills, and cultural norms in Danish preschools.
While Denmark seems to have their education system all figured out, America struggles to try and give all students an equal opportunity at a good education.