The Cost of Universal Preschool, Part Three: Implications of Implementation

school implementationIn my exploration into this topic, I wanted to delve a little more into how it is being implemented in other areas, and now that their programs are up and running, what the outcomes have been.

New York City implemented their universal preschool plan in the Fall of 2014.  I want to examine some of the questions that may be on our minds.

How did they fund universal preschool?

By creating an additional 10% income tax on the highest earners.

Who can offer universal preschool?

Public schools, private schools, private child care centers, family child care providers, and group family child care providers.

Which children are eligible for universal preschool?

At the beginning in 2014, four year olds from low income families were supposed to be given preference, totaling about 53,604.  Although, it looks like the City of New York missed the mark initially, as more middle income families were receiving universal preschool than the lower income families the program was created for (see more on this here:

They were hoping to raise this to 73,250  children enrolling in the 2015-2016 school year.  The plan was to increase the program until it was available to all four year olds and they did meet that goal at the beginning of the 2015 school year.

When it comes to enrollment, low income families are often given priority so that centers can meet their universal preschool enrollment quota to retain their funding.  This now can make it more difficult for middle income families to find care and education for their children.

What do parents have to pay?

The 2.5 hours per day that is deemed as “preschool time” is free.  Parents have to pay for any care before or after that time.

How does an established child care become part of the universal preschool program?

Fill out paperwork, submit a proposal describing your program and how much you will charge families for out-of-school time.  Create a budget with three year projections.  Include how many families currently eligible for universal pre-k you will be able to enroll (this will affect how much funding you receive).  Provide teacher qualifications (in New York City, one certified teacher with a bachelor’s degree and two teacher’s aides with at least a high school diploma and 6 college credits for every twenty children.  The certified teacher can be the director, as long as the director instructs the 2.5 preschool hours each day.

What is the universal preschool program schedule?

The universal preschool program is split into Fall only enrollment and Summer only enrollment.

Do universal preschools have access to district facilities (libraries, gyms), or district training days for their staff?

This is not established in the current program, and can be decided by individual school districts, and schools within that district.

Do teachers receive the same pay and benefits as school district teachers?

No.  It is up to the private employer to provide pay and benefit arrangements.  I feel this is an important one to point out, because just as many parents think universal preschool will mean completely free child care, many preschool teachers think universal preschool will mean pay matched to school districts, and the retirement/paid leave/sick leave/ health insurance offered.  This is not necessarily the case.

Do parents have to enroll their child in a preschool that is within their school district?

In New York, this is decided on a case by case basis by their school district.  For us in Rapid City, this means that districts will decide whether we are allowed to enroll students from the Rapid City Area School District and the Douglas School District for an example.

Can private religious organizations receive funding for universal preschool?

Yes, but there must not be anything visible to students that could be considered a religious item.

There are many great facets to the universal preschool plan in New York City.  Centers can apply for grants up to $10,000 for program quality improvement.  These funds are allocated for improving and repairing existing programs, but not as initial capital.  They also implemented a limited number of $2000.00 Child Care Professional Retention grants, in order to encourage certified teachers to switch to early childhood education.

If universal preschool is something that is going to be adopted, it is going to be very important for state governments to have a say in the process.  Something that is functional in New York City might not work here.

A state income tax (even only for the highest earners) will not yield the same results, as I’m willing to bet the majority of our highest earners aren’t billionaires.

Trying to mandate that every classroom have a bachelor degree certified teacher will be very difficult in a state that is already rapidly losing our teachers due to low pay.

With making community based, faith based, and private based centers left to pick up the tab for the majority of at least $30,000 a year salaries with benefits for certified teachers, we will have to raise our rates. Even though the portion of the day that is “universal pre k” would be subsidized, we have to figure out how to pay the gap.  Another option is for centers to provide drop off and pick up services for students to qualified universal preschool centers and then provide the rest of the day’s care and education.

With a plan like New York or Oklahoma, thousands of teachers already in the early childhood education classrooms would be left with three choices. First, they could become a teacher’s aide until they can earn a bachelor’s degree. Second, they would only be able to instruct children under the age of three.   Finally, they can leave the field of early childhood education altogether.

The Child Development Associate program was supposed to have been developed to bridge the gap of education for early childhood educators.  If South Dakota develops a universal preschool program, there has to be a way for those with CDA certificates to remain in their classrooms.

We have to be aware of what is changing around us so we can be part of a practical implementation process in our state.  Community members, educators, and parents must be proactive about how this legislation would be formulated.

As always, thank you for reading Education Plantation.  I hope you will take the information provided here to your staff, your community, and your professional organizations.  We all have to be advocates for early childhood education.

If you wish you can leave a comment here or email me at We need to communicate and give feedback on what is practical for our state.

Part One: The Cost of Universal Preschool, Examining School Districts

Part Two: The Cost of Universal Preschool, What Works, and What Doesn’t

Part Three: The Cost of Universal Preschool, Implications of Implementation

Part Four: The Cost of Universal Preschool, Words from an Expert

The Cost of Universal Preschool: Part Two, What Works, What Doesn’t

What is Universal Preschool?

According to the NAEYC, the term universal preschool means that pre-K programs are available to any child in a given state, regardless of family income, children’s abilities, or other factors. Several states are on the path to funding universal preschool.

Before anyone views universal preschool as free child care for all, it is important to consider that the preschool year is being based off of what is considered a traditional preschool schedule.  This means that it is typically only offered half days, nine months out of the year, and generally is only available to four year olds (although is extended to three year olds in some areas).  With South Dakota high ranking for number of parents who are both working, we have to consider how the “out of school time” would be handled.

Where can I find examples of universal preschool?

So far the only states to have adopted universal preschool are Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia, although there are several other states with phase in programs underway.  There are also individual cities who have adopted these programs such as New York, Denver, and Seattle, among others.

What is working so far in universal preschool?

There are many benefits to universal preschool, one of which making preschool education for children affordable for low income families.  Another is raising standards, because generally teachers in publicly funded preschool have to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and all assistant teachers must have a CDA.  It also has guidelines for assessments of students and teachers.

What Georgia does: Georgia has many guidelines that must be met, but they make the information easy to access.  One component I appreciated about their lead teacher training requirements is that they grandfathered in lead teachers with associate’s degrees.  If they were already employed as lead teachers, then they could remain so, but all newly hired instructors were required to hold bachelor’s degrees.

What Oklahoma does: Oklahoma has the highest rate of universal pre-k enrollment at 74%.  They are helping working families too because they offer full day and half day programs (they do remain however at the traditional nine month enrollment plan).   Oklahoma only offers universal preschool through the public school district, there is no collaboration or partnership with privately owned preschools.

What Florida does: Florida does not have the same stringent guidelines as Oklahoma and Georgia.  They run on two different schedules, a summer program or a fall program.  Students attend preschool for three hours per day, and 80% of these programs are administered through already existing private child care programs, therefore removing the “middle man” of having to transport the majority of children to full day child care centers.  In my opinion, Florida also makes this transition easier by requiring fall semester preschool teachers to be CDA certified (although they do require a bachelor’s degree for teacher’s in the summer semester).

What challenges need to be addressed?

There are opposing views as to whether or not preschool has long term effects past the third grade.  There are studies that show the positive effects of preschool begin to drop off at this time, while there are other studies that show a life long correlation between a lifelong likelihood to avoid incarceration if you attended preschool.  I am a preschool owner, and so I clearly am strongly invested in the long term benefits of preschool education.  As a side note, I would think there would be a point in a child’s education when the baton would be passed so that preschool instructors weren’t held accountable for a child’s success in school forevermore but maybe I’m interpreting that statistic incorrectly.

Critics of prekindergarten programs attached to K-12 schools have worried that such programs could become too focused on building academic skills in developmentally inappropriate ways. Many of us are already aware of the increase in standardized testing in elementary schools. Drilling young children in their letters and numbers has actually been found to be counter-productive. Research shows that while children taught by drill do better on early assessments, they don’t remember what they learn as long as children who are taught primarily through hands-on, play-based activities.

Publicly funded preschool can widen the expense gap for those in the middle class, and the additional training requirements can push out experienced preschool instructors who don’t meet educational requirements.  This results in two things, private child care centers have to hire teachers with more formal education (good for families) but have to increase their rates to accommodate higher salaries for teachers (bad for families).  This also has the potential to leave experienced teachers out in the cold, unable to work in a profession they’ve dedicated their lives to.

If universal preschool is adapted nationwide, where will the bachelor degree teachers come from?  One article suggests “Late elementary and secondary school teachers could also find themselves at the preschool door, depending on state certification policies and union and district practices, which might include moving less effective teachers of older children to “non-testing” age groups.” Does this mean a high school chemistry teacher whose students can’t meet standardized testing requirements will be bumped down to what is perceived to be the “easy” task of instructing preschoolers?  This train of thought is so counter intuitive I don’t know why it would ever even be entertained.

Additionally, here’s what wikipedia has to say:

  • Assessment of program outcomes has been difficult, largely due to the lack of data and newness of universal preschool around the nation. Studies in the US have not fully demonstrated the long term benefit of preschool to middle income children.
  • Critics have charged that the costs of universal pre-k could rise. Since the term “universal” means access for all children, the cost varies in proportional to the expected contribution by parents in addition to state funding, the number of hours for which a state provide funding, and whether qualifying programs have enough slots for all children.
  • Since quality requirements stipulate certain standards, not all pre-k programs, especially those in private settings, are eligible. There remains a controversy about whether private providers will be driven out of business if local public schools offer full-day, tuition-free programs.
  • Critics charge that where high quality publicly funded pre-k slots are limited, waiting lists can result in disadvantaged children competing with higher income children for preschool access. Some states provide an additional amount of tuition to help offset the special needs of at-risk children.
  • Although no state mandates participation in programs, and even though some states provide funding for home-based pre-k programs, some conservatives argue that the responsibility for care and learning before kindergarten belongs solely to parents.
  • In some states teachers unions are working with pre-k teachers to create early education unions, to allow for bargaining with state on pre-k reimbursements. At the same time, some teachers unions have opposed siting pre-k programs in private centers and homes, as a drain of public education resources and a potential open-door to school vouchers.

For more information on universal preschool click here, or check out the many resource links included in this article!

Thank you for reading Early Education Plantation.  Be sure to come back for the following topics addressing The Cost of Universal Preschool.

Part One: The Cost of Universal Preschool, Examining School Districts

Part Two: The Cost of Universal Preschool, What Works, and What Doesn’t

Part Three: The Cost of Universal Preschool, Implications of Implementation

Part Four: The Cost of Universal Preschool, Words from an Expert

Please leave comments and feedback.  This is an issue that should be very important to all of us, owners, directors, teachers, parents, and tax payers.

The Cost of Universal Preschool: Part One, Examining School Districts

preschool blocks

This is a topic that we should all be involved in, and here’s why:

Does universal preschool work?

What changes will happen if universal preschool is implemented nationwide? This is a possibility on the democratic platforms.  Form an opinion. (Share your thoughts here). Vote.  If this is implemented we need to be informed and prepared to make our adjustments as necessary.

There is a lot of weight placed on the high quality of universal preschool.  The thought is it will be administered as well as our public schools.  Many of us who have children in the public school system can attest that this is a program that is already flawed.  Under funded, out of space, low pay for teachers, lack of quality teachers, and lack of quality administration.  So the solution is to add approximately 10,000 four year olds in the State of South Dakota to this program?

I want to share a specific story with you today regarding a teacher who became disillusioned and chose to leave her preschool classroom in a school district. Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

When Jackie made it into a school district, she thought she was set.  This was part of her dream, to work with preschoolers, the professionalism of the school, the awesome training, the experienced professionals, the behavioral specialist onsite for resources, and she was thrilled.

And then she got into the school year.

Jackie’s co-teacher Sarah had about ten years of experience under her belt.  At the beginning of the year, things went very well.  The co-teacher had great ideas, she was a good mentor for project management and documentation required for the district.  Jackie enjoyed their classroom, at first.

As the school year progressed they had a particularly challenging student, Bobby.  Things didn’t escalate with Bobby all at once. Day after day the situation worsened.  From defiance, to running away, to violence.  “Can I help you with Bobby? Do you need a break?” Jackie would ask her co-teacher Sarah. Sarah would sit holding Bobby while he struggled.  Sarah would reply, “No, I’m fine.”  Then things got worse, and Bobby would try to kick and bite Sarah, and she began yelling at him daily.  Jackie would say, “I really think we need to talk to his parents about this.” “No, his parents don’t think there’s a problem, I have to fix this myself.” Sarah would respond.

Jackie voiced her concerns to the principal.  “She has experience.  She can handle that kind of behavior in the classroom.” The principal replied. “Yes, but she’s getting angry.” Jackie said.  “She’s fine.” said the principal.

This continued until the day Sarah picked Bobby up by the shoulders and lifted him off the floor.  Her face was red and she yelled eye to eye with him, “YOU HAVE TO STOP!” as she shook him.

Jackie  went immediately to the principal.  The principal pointedly told Jackie, “Mind your own business.”

This is when Jackie knew she was through.  She reported the incident to the Department of Social Services, and put in her notice.  Sarah was pulled from the classroom for ten days, DSS completed their investigation. After ten days Sarah was returned to her classroom, no administrative action, no further correctional plan, nothing.

In examining this situation, Sarah’s actions were totally inexcusable, but I am also convinced that she was failed by the school district system established to help her.  I hope that having an investigation completed by DSS was enough of a wake up call to her that she was out of control.  I hope she has changed her behavior, and knows when to step back so another student is never treated that way.  I hope that the principal will get out of her office and into the classroom to provide her teachers with the resources and back up they need. I do wonder what happened to Bobby, the little boy that no one would help, with a behavioral specialist four doors away.

Abusive behavior can happen in any classroom.  There is a misconception that your child is “safe” when they are in a public school.  It is a widely accepted belief that they will receive quality care and education.  Visit with any family who has opted for private school or home schooling, and you may hear a different perspective of why they chose a different type of care and education for their child.

This is a heated topic.  On the one hand, universal preschool offers the promise of increased government funding, particularly for established programs like Headstart.  Those of us who already deal with government funding might give an unenthusiastic “yay” at the thought of all, or a large portion, of our funding coming from the feds.  There are a lot of questions about practical implementation that need to be addressed.

I am a preschool owner.  I believe that all children should have access to quality preschool care and education.  But I will not negotiate the quality to fulfill a politician’s platform for promises without practical implementation.

Thank you for reading Early Education Plantation.  Be sure to come back for the following topics addressing The Cost of Universal Preschool.

Part Two: The Cost of Universal Preschool, What Works, and What Doesn’t

Part Three: The Cost of Universal Preschool, Implications of Implementation

Part Four: The Cost of Universal Preschool, Words from an Expert

Please leave comments and feedback.  This is an issue that should be very important to all of us, owners, directors, teachers, parents, and tax payers.

  1. In the State of South Dakota, we have specific laws mandating reports of suspected child abuse and neglect by early childhood educators. What further steps could/should have Jackie taken to protect the children in her classroom?
  2. Please share your opinion on universal preschool.  Share pros and cons, do you know of anywhere that it is/isn’t working?

Exclusive Interview with the Professional Development Coordinator for Early Childhood Connections: Kim Booth

Join me, Jessica Castleberry as I sit down and visit with Kim Booth, Professional Development Coordinator of Early Childhood Education, the Region 1 SDCDA Program Coordinator, and main administrator of the Rapid City Starting Strong Program.  Get to know Kim, hear about opportunities for obtaining a CDA, more information about the Rapid City Starting Strong program, and how you can receive additional resources for challenging behaviors in your classroom.  Listen for inside advice to early childhood educators, and what Kim would change about early childhood education in South Dakota.


Kim Booth, Professional Development Coordinator, Early Childhood Connections

To tune in now, CLICK HERE!

Want to find out more about Kim and Early Childhood Connections?

Visit the facebook page  or website!

If you have any questions or comments for Kim, you can leave them in the comment area, or email her at

Additional resources mentioned by Kim during the interview:

The Center on Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning

  1. Please share any resources that you have found helpful for professional growth, or help with student behaviors.
  2.  If  I was able to give you the ability to solve one issue in the early childhood education environment in South Dakota, what would it be?  Can you think of opportunities for how we can address this issue without a magic wand?

Post your answers in the comment area or email me at