Universal pre-kindergarten, or pre-K, was founded in 1834 in France. It is a government-funded program meant to make preschool available to all families, regardless of family income, children’s abilities, or other factors.
While the United States has yet to fully adopt the idea, Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Illinois are a few states that have moved toward a universal pre-K structure. Many other states are discussing the possibility of implementing universal pre-K in the near future.
Support of universal pre-K has grown, as public opinion has shifted from the idea that children are solely the responsibility of their parents to the idea that society shares a portion of the responsibility of a youth’s upbringing.
Supportive universal pre-K research shows that children who receive education prior to kindergarten are more likely to develop strong social and academic skills in comparison to those who do not attend preschool. Parents who have participated in the program have reported that the early introduction to structure and daily school routines seems to have given their child a head start.
Low income and at-risk children benefit most from the universal pre-K format, as it levels the educational playing field and provides them preparation for what lies ahead. Education prior to kindergarten has shown to also lessen the effects of learning disabilities as well as reducing the dropout rate.
There are opponents to universal pre-K; however, most opponents believe the program is too expensive and an unnecessary extra government expense. Opponents are concerned about taxes being raised in order to pay for this program. With universal pre-K as an option, some families may no longer pay tuition, resulting in closure or restructuring of some private preschools.
Reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, March 2020
- Universal pre-K is a government funded program in select states that makes preschool available to all families, regardless of family income or children’s abilities.
- Supportive research shows that children develop better social and academic skills in comparison to those who do not attend preschool.