IF public policy were based just on what we know works, universal pre-kindergarten education would already be the law of the land. The public duty to educate children would not, magically, kick in at age 5 for kindergarten. High-quality preschool would be a foundation for school readiness, leveling academic disparities across race and income lines.
But such a utopia is not to be found. The Washington Legislature is moving, slowly, in that direction; Congress, less so. Cities have begun to redefine the public duty to the tiniest of students. That is why the City of Seattle’s proposal for a universal, high-quality preschool experiment seems promising.
At the risk of sounding ungracious, my own complaint with the Seattle Times editorial board on universal preschool is that they didn’t take the lead on it sooner. For all their strong words in favor of charter schools, increased testing, and other so called “reforms,” high quality early learning is the only educational reform absolutely proven to work. If the editorial board had focused more on improving education and less on busting the teachers unions, perhaps Seattle might have moved toward universal preschool a couple years sooner.