The benefits of Pre-K are almost undisputed in the world of the education. Not only does pre-K help introduce children to what it’s like to experience and be in school, it helps them learn the social skills necessary to succeed there- sharing, playing with others, language development, and the beginnings of prosocial behaviors (thinking of others before they think of themselves). I was only able to teach Special Education pre-school for a year before accepting a job in another state, but it was so much fun watching the learning and play that happens in pre-K. The first half of our day was focused on centers, ABCs, patterns, colors, counting, puzzles, literacy, sensory activities, and fine and gross motor activities, while the second half of our day was spent eating lunch, taking a nap (them, not me), and playing outdoors (both organized and free play). The kids learned how to follow directions and make friends, and I had the privilege of working with phenomenal teachers who developed activities to help our students master pre-reading and a love of learning. I loved teaching preschool, and the experience made me a believer. I think all children should have the opportunity to experience the rich social environment pre-K has to offer.
Now, that’s my own, personal experience. But there’s also a host of research and evidence boasting the benefits of pre-school. According to the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, which followed 3 and 4 year old preschoolers well into adulthood, children who attend pre-k are not only more ready for kindergarten at age 5, but are also more likely to stay in school through middle and high school, less likely to get arrested, and more likely to own a home. It’s hard to dispute the social, behavioral, and academic learning children stand to gain from attending pre-school, but even more significant is that the research also shows that the greatest benefits seem to occur in specific demographics of children: namely those from economically disadvantaged families.
The reason this is important to Indianapolis is that Indiana is running a pilot program that will make pre-K available for families that earn 185% of the poverty level (you can find that here, but to give you an idea, that’s $44,862 for a family of four.) What this program will do is make available to families a waiver that will help their children attend preschool. If more applicants apply than there are funds available, then there will be a randomized lottery.
Making pre-K available to families who are considered low-income is a crucial move for our entire community because it allows us help those children who research shows most benefit from it. While middle-class children can benefit from pre-K, as well, their gains and losses are not as statistically significant as those children from low-income families. The HighScope Perry Preschool Study previously mentioned also suggested a $12.90 per dollar return on investment for pre-K programs, citing a huge savings in crime savings, decrease in welfare spending, decrease in education spending, and an increase in taxable income. By working to help ALL of the children in our community succeed, we are investing in our future and success as a city. It is my sincere hope that this pilot program goes well, and that pre-K will become available to all Indiana children (like Oklahoma’s Universal Pre-K Program.) For now, I think this waiver is a good start.
To find more information on how to apply for the On My Way to Pre-K Waiver, check out the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Homepage at: On My Way to Pre-K Application