Up in arms or down in the dumps over universal pre-K?

I guess it was no surprise that columns in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times came out on opposite sides of the universal pre-K debate last week.


On one hand (that of WSJ columnists Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell), universal preschool is not all it’s cracked up to be and certainly doesn’t offer a serious return on investment, they claim. As for economic gains, they cite only Nobel laureate James Heckman‘s calculation of 16-cents on the dollar, which is a far cry from those of the Economic Policy Institute ($3 in benefits for every dollar in investment) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (8-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio).


On the other hand (that of Winnie Hu in the NYT), if it’s well-funded funded universal pre-K can work. Steven Barnett of Rutgers University says it improves children’s cognitive abilities and promotes social and emotional development, all of which ultimately lead to higher test scores and graduation rates. It’s a future every state longs for but few, including New York, are fully committed to.


What do you say? Is pre-K the new kindergarten, something every child should have access to? Where should the funding come from?


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