Tuesday, March 14, 2006

PreK for all

Back to school. I am looking for idea for a proposal paper I have to write. I really wanted to do my paper asking for states to fund "pre K for all" which is a movement that is advocating for just this type of education action. Any way I found info that documents some of the different ways states are funding this initiative. Here in MN we do not have state funded voluntary preschool for all children (ie. free preschool like kindergarten). We have Head Start and various ECFE programs funded through Learning Readiness as well as special education funded programs but not a state funded preK for all children type program, even head start and most ECFE programs have a fee although it is usually based on a sliding scale. In some states however, there are these state funded preK for all programs and some are funded by State Lottery monies, and or "sin" tax monies. In two states the funding for these state funded preK programs are supported entirely by these sort of taxes and there is no money used from the states general fund. They have unbeleivably large amounts of money that they use for thier preK programs. So this got me to thinking... Is this good or bad? There are a few different points of view for this argument. Just curious what other people might think? If you use this kind of funding, are you saying you advocate for people to gamble, drink, or smoke? Or are you just saying people will do it any way so why not get the money and use it for something good? I am not sure, I have not thought about it long enough yet. It sounds like one of those double edge sword things. I do believe that preK should be funded and be offered to all families, but how to pay for it? That is the hard question, especially when education funding is in such dire straits right now... Hmm. Just my little reflection for the day.


welch said...

Personally I have no problem with taxes on tobacco or alcohol products. Both of these are things that can be done in moderation and are legal. I don't think that is an adornment to abuse these products. Personally I do have a bit of a problem with the state run lottery system, because it is run by the government and from the statistics I have seen, although it has been a while since I looked at this issue, the vast majority of the people who purchase lottery tickets are the ones who can least afford to do so. The lottery is a tax on the mathematically ignorant.

That said, it probably is not going away, so I don't think it is wrong to use that funding for education.

I heard a speech recently by William Wulf, the president of the National Academy of Engineering.

One of his points is that our society has made a philosophical switch in the way we view education. His argument was that, as a society, we used to think of education as a public good and now we see it as a private good. He was primarily addressing higher-education, but I think his point is valid from the collegiate level to preK.

If we view education as strictly a private good (for the individual student) then I think it is hard to get things like free preK education passed, but when we see it as a public good, that educating all children is a benefit to society, then it makes sense to do whatever we can so that they achieve.

Personally I think public education should probably be nationalized. The world is much flatter than it was and I think the days that a kid growing up in Minnesota needed a different education that a kid growing up in Texas as past us. Also, funding for schools is haphazard in that in most places they are funded through property taxes, which means the poorer the community the poorer the school. It is my belief that failing to provide a decent education to those living in poor neighborhoods is a form of oppression. Without education their is no hope to break free from the cycle of poverty. Sure, there are some examples of people who have done it, but they are the exception.

I have gone on a rant, but I guess to answer your question about funding, it seems to me that as a society we really have to value the education of all students. If we truly see this as a societal good then we will find a way to fund it, but as long as we see it as a private good, and our kids are doing ok, it will be much harder to convince people to properly fund public education.

Kjj said...

Thank Chad! I love your input! I think it is really interesting that you say you would be more inclined to support the tax on alcohol and tobacco rather then the lottery. My first inclination was the opposite, although I wanted more info on who actually buys lottery tickets. I was thinking... are we making a judgment on people who smoke or drink by continually raising the taxes on these things? But I like your point. I too was concerned that the lottery thing may adversely affect those who preK would likely benefit the most, as there are a number of reliable studies that indicate that preK for children in low income situations is very beneficial, and not just in their school years but their entire lives. I will have to go hunt for some more info on the lottery I guess. I think you've got me thinking in a new way here, adding a lottery might mean more money for preK but possibly more gambling amongst people who can least afford it. Is it possible that higher tax on cigarettes and alcohol inhibit abuse of these products? Or would this also adversely affect lower income populations? I guess I need to see more statistics on consumer demographics. Ah, this is good, a direction to go in! Thanks Chad!
Hey if you don't mind, would you read my proposal when I finish it? We are supposed to have a couple people read it for us and critique it, and I can't think of a better person.
Your point about property taxes funding schools is something I totally agree with too.
Have you read the book Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol? Very interesting book, especially for someone like me who has very little experience outside of "middle income" small town schools!
"It is my belief that failing to provide a decent education to those living in poor neighborhoods is a form of oppression."- Exactly what Kozol says. I agree.
Thanks so much Chad!