In the Spring of the 2006/2007 school year, Hillary Clinton made a stop to a Miami Beach elementary school where she tool student and the press that, “As president, I will establish universal pre-kindergarten education…so that every four-year-old child in America can attend a government-funded preschool” (Miller, 2007, p. 48). Although this proclamation may seem somewhat odd given all of the challenges currently facing America’s public education system, the reality is that support and momentum for universal preschool programs has increased dramatically in recent years while more political and community leaders pushing for government sponsored universal preschool programs. With the realization the universal preschool programs have become such an important issue for the development of American public education, there is a direct impetus to examine the current reasons for such notable changes in attitudes toward these programs. Using this as a basis for investigation, this research seeks to provide a more integral understanding of the reasons for universal preschool programs and the benefits and drawbacks of these proposals. This research concludes with a discussion of who should pay for these preschool programs and what steps should be taken to ensure that they are uniformly implemented in all school districts. Literature Review
Reasons for Universal Preschool
Although the push for the development of universal preschool is not new, a critical review of the current interest in the type of schooling suggests that there are a myriad of reasons as to why policymakers and educators are aggressively pursing policies to develop these programs. With this in mind, it is important to provide a comprehensive review of the current literature by examining the wide range of reasons that have been offered for the development of these programs. By examining the reasons behind the current push for universal preschool programs, it will be possible to demonstrate why these programs have become so popular in recent years. Ashford (2007) in her review of the popularity of universal preschool programs argues that these programs have become so important in recent years because of consistent data which suggests that notable achievement gaps in the current education system continue to persist. As reported by this author, “The growing recognition that efforts to reduce the achievement gap must start way before children enter kindergarten is driving a renewed interest in universal preschool” (p. 22). Ashford goes on to report that the achievement gaps that manifest in the early levels of elementary education often persist over the course of the child’s education. Thus, alleviating these gaps is essential for improving outcomes for student achievement and educational success. Dellinger, Osorio and Hybner (2007) in their review of universal preschool programs also report that educators are now widely supporting the mover toward this educational paradigm. As reported by these authors, “Claiming that it's needed to help boost early test scores to meet NCLB's testing requirements, [teacher’s] unions are urging states to provide costly preschool programs, pushing more toddlers into classrooms” (p. 17). Dellinger and coworkers go on to report that the mandates set forth in under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation have placed so much pressure on educators to ensure learning outcomes for students that many educators now believe that universal preschool is the most salient means to help bolster learning outcomes and provide the support needed for students to perform well on NCLB assessments. In addition to the fact that educators now believe that universal preschool is imperative for improving outcomes of standardized tests required under NCLB, Dellinger, et al., (2007) further report that current data on academic outcomes for children enrolled in preschool programs suggests that these programs can...