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?