Universal Pre K is NOT FREE.


Guest blog by an Early Childhood Education expert, on the push behind universal pre k and the fallacy behind this agenda. This UPK, is heading toward mandatory and all day. It is not developmentally or age appropriate and is NOT free daycare. Keep your babies in a loving home or daycare environment. Upk is not the answer. Do not let the USDOE’s guise of ‘helping’ influence you into choosing the wrong environment for your child at this most critical and crucial age.

They will tell you they are helping overworked parents with “free daycare”. They will tell you that your child is lagging behind.

Rigor and grit does not equate to healthy childcare. Your child is unique and not “in need of catching up”, if you do not allow this agenda of being pushed into a cookie cutter mold to further the workforce agenda. Children are not common. Children are not college and career ready, because THEY ARE CHILDREN.

If you have young children, please read this carefully.

“My name is Hollee Saville, and here are my thoughts about Universal Preschool:

I have been a licensed family childcare provider in St. Michael, Mn, for almost 10 years. I have worked in centers, public preschools, and kindergarten programs. I am a trainer, consultant, and mentor for early childhood educators and have a Master’s in Early Childhood Education. I am opposed to both HF46 and SF6, the Universal Preschool bills.

I have many concerns with the push for universal preschool. Education—especially early childhood education—should not be viewed as one-size-fits-all; it is anything but universal. We are robbing children of their childhood with the push for them to be ready to declare their major by the time they get to kindergarten! The standards are not developmentally appropriate, so it’s not surprising that children aren’t “ready.” Ironically, the Minnesota Department of Education 2006 Readiness Study Report stated that its goal is “not to establish whether or not children are ready for school …Young children develop rapidly and at varying rates across the domains, and an early, definitive determination of readiness can have unintended negative consequences.” What a shift they’ve made.

Education is not something you do to children; it is something to be experienced with them. Children need time to enjoy their childhood instead of being treated like mini adults. The countries with the best education systems in the world (Finland, South Korea, and Singapore) do not start formal schooling until age six at the earliest, age seven in Finland. They recognize the importance of children being able to explore, create, play, and simply be children before beginning kindergarten. The United States ranks an abysmal 17th in the world in education. We need to focus on fixing K-12 education before trying to implement unfounded changes to early childhood education.

Research does not show the benefits of formal preschool. In fact, there is mounting evidence that the overly academic nature of formal preschool programs is detrimental to children’s development. Researchers at Stanford University (Loeb, et al., 2007) found that kindergartners with 15 or more hours of preschool every week were less motivated and more aggressive in class. Children in formal preschool for more than six hours per day had difficulty with cooperation, sharing, and engagement in classroom tasks. A 2007 NICHD (Belsky, et al.) government study found that the more time children spend in center-based care before kindergarten, the more likely they are to get in frequent fights, argue, and be disobedient at school.

Oklahoma has the highest percentage of children in the nation enrolled in their universal pre-K program, which started in 1988, and the highest quality rating scores according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). In 1992, their National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) 4th grade reading scores were above the national average, but have been below the national average every time the test was taken since then. In 2010, the same test showed that 72 percent of Oklahoma fourth graders are reading below grade level proficiency.

Georgia’s universal preschool program ranks 3rd in quality according to NIEER. It began in 1995 and its 4th grade reading NAEP scores continue to remain below the national average. However, their Early Childhood Report through first grade showed that children involved in a private program or those who were raised at home did the best academically.
Even supporters of universal preschool admit that the two studies most frequently used to support it—the High/Scope study of the Perry Preschool and the study of the Abecedarian programs—show that any cognitive advantages over children who did not attend formal preschool disappeared within a few years after completing the programs. These studies were conducted more than 50 years ago! Plus, the experimental groups were very small and the programs were more involved than the preschool programs being pushed today. The groups were not diverse or representative of the United States, Minnesota, or even the full communities in which they were located. Therefore, the studies are neither valid nor relevant for touting universal preschool.

It’s disheartening that these bills imply that children are only ready for kindergarten if they attend a public preschool program. However, home experiences and programs, like mine, that foster children’s love for learning through active exploration, play, and sensory experiences ensure that children are naturally prepared for life and school success.
The core problem with all of these so-called fixes to education is that they do not and cannot address the importance of love for children throughout their childhood, including in education. They do not foster a love for learning and do not teach them how to think, only what to think. They do not address the fact that family education is crucial to children’s development in every way. The NICHD (2007) study found that quality of parenting—not type, quality, or quantity of child care—was a better predictor of child development. There are already myriad existing resources that could be utilized and highlighted to help families ensure their children are ready for school…and life.

Private child care providers and preschools will have difficulty competing with the allure of “free” preschool while dealing with burdensome regulations and certifications that public preschool programs do not face. Schools do not pay property taxes, yet family child care providers have to pay property taxes, Self-Employment taxes, and myriad other expenses that are not subsidized by taxpayers like schools are. Providers would be forced to raise their rates to make a sustainable income; thus, increasing the cost difference between their programs and the “free” universal preschool programs. It would likely create a shortage in childcare options for children from birth – age 3 because child care providers can only accept a few children younger than 2 in their programs.

The sponsors of these bills seem to have thrown them together without looking at the long-term consequences or logistics. Where will the children enrolled in public preschools go on snow days, teacher workshop days, holidays, and school breaks? Family child care providers and centers will not be able to hold spots for drop-in care.

Universal preschool would unnecessarily subsidize people who can already afford to pay for it themselves while placing a burden on other taxpayers. Statistics show as many as 70% of 4-year olds are already enrolled in some sort of “preschool” program. Why would you want to pull children from their existing programs and harm private programs in the process? Universal preschool would also provide disincentive for families to take care of their children.
I am also curious how universal preschool’s supporters intend to (make taxpayers) pay for it. Do they plan to cut important services or raise taxes when Minnesota families are already struggling? Legislators should be focusing our limited education resources on programs that can make a lasting difference.

David Elkind, a renowned early childhood expert warns that children should not receive academic instruction too early because it can actually damage their self-esteem, reduce their love of learning, and impede the development of their gifts. He explains: “There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits, and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm…If we do not wake up to the potential danger of these harmful practices, we may do serious damage to a large segment of the next generation” (The Hurried Child, 2011).
Wake up, everyone! Just because a bill has the words “children” and “education” in it does not mean that it has their best interests at heart. In fact, it should be a major red flag when it has the words “free” in it.

Universal Preschool Reference List

Alger, V. (2013). Policy focus: Saying no to government preschool and child care. Retrieved from http://c1355372.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/7c488bb4-5256-447a-9b90-322b39fb78a0/Newsletter%20Sept%202013%20Proof%203.pdf

Armor, D. (2014). The evidence on universal preschool: Are benefits worth the cost? Retrieved from http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa760.pdf

Barker, J., Semenov, A., Michaelson, L., Provan, L., Snyder, H., & Munakata Y. (2014). Less-structured time in children’s daily lives predicts self-directed executive functioning. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1-16. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00593

Belsky, J., Vandell, D., Burchinal, M., Clarke-Stewart, K., McCartney, K., Owen, M., & The NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2007). Are there long-term effects of early child care?. Child Development, 78: 681–701. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01021.x

Bonawitz, E., Shafto, P., Gweon, H., Goodman, N. D., Spelke, E., & Schulz, L. (2011). The double-edged sword of pedagogy: Instruction limits spontaneous exploration and discovery. Cognition, 120(3), 322-330. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.10.001

Burke, L. (2009). Does universal preschool improve learning? Lessons from Georgia and Oklahoma. Heritage Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2009/05/Does-Universal-Preschool-Improve-Learning-Lessons-from-Georgia-and-Oklahoma

Cascio, E. (2010). What happened when kindergarten went universal? Education Next, 10 (2). Retrieved from http://educationnext.org/files/ednext_20102_62.pdf 
Dalmia, S., & Snell, L. (2013). The dispiriting evidence on preschool. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324662404578329873460933586

Dutcher, B. (2013). President Obama’s enthusiasm for Oklahoma preschool not universally shared. Retrieved from http://www.oklahomaconstitution.com/ns.php?nid=471

Elkind, D. (2008). Some misunderstandings of school readiness. Exchange, 180, 49 – 52. Retrieved from Pro Quest Education Journals.

Gopnik, A. (2011). Why preschool shouldn’t be like school. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/03/why_preschool_shouldnt_be_like_school.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_em_bot

Loeb, S., Bridges, M., Bassok, D., Fuller, B., & Rumberger, R. (2007). How much is too much? The influence of preschool centers on children’s social and cognitive development. Economics of Education Review, 26(1), 52-66. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w11812.pdf

Magnuson, K., Ruhm, C., & Waldfogel, J. (2007). Does prekindergarten improve school preparation and performance?. Economics of Education Review, 26(1), 33-51. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w10452.pdf

Marcon, R. (2002). Moving up the grades: Relationship between preschool model and later school success. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 4(1), n1. Retrieved from http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v4n1/marcon.html

Miller, E., & Almon, J. (2009). Crisis in the kindergarten: Why children need to play in school. College. Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood.

Puma, M., Bell, S., Cook, R., Heid, C., Broene, P., Jenkins, F., … & Downer, J. (2012). Third grade follow-up to the Head Start impact study: Final report. OPRE Report 2012-45. Administration for Children & Families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/head_start_executive_summary.pdf

Westen, J. (2007) Massive study finds preschool and early childhood initiatives show no benefits. Life Site News. Retrieved from https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/massive-study-finds-pre-school-and-early-child-education-initiatives-show-n.   ”

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