Academic and Fiscal Benefits of Universal Preschool



This brief is authored by Dr. William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

There is near-universal agreement among researchers “that high-quality preschool programs more than pay for themselves in economic and social benefits,” Mathis writes. Indeed, high-quality preschool for at least two years has been found to close as much as half the achievement gap. Such preschool participation is also associated with a wide range of more positive adult outcomes, including less drug use, less welfare depen
dency, higher graduation rates, higher college attendance, and higher employment.

Despite these demonstrated outcomes and the increase in children attending pre-school, “in inflation adjusted dollars, overall funding per child served is lower than a decade ago,” Mathis writes. For preschool to reap its proven substantial benefits, lawmakers must assure that the programs are of high quality and are adequately supported.

The brief explains the key elements of a quality pre-school program. It also discusses research findings concerning basic issues such as the entrance age for preschool, comparisons of center-based and home-based programs, and whether preschool should be universal or targeted by socioeconomic group.
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