One component of the newly proposed American Families Plan is the institution of universal public preschool. In most US states, preschool is a private, optional educational foundation while public schools are only available starting in kindergarten. Preschool, however, holds many social and academic benefits for students and even society.
In terms of socialization, preschool provides students with valuable emotional and social skills. Interacting with peers on a daily basis and practicing skills like listening, waiting your turn, and sharing helps children establish valuable emotional intelligence. Although these skills can also be practiced at home with dedicated parenting, the classroom environment helps children better learn to express themselves, focus on tasks, learn patience, and socialize respectfully with other children.
As an educational environment, preschool also lays the foundation for brain development and future learning. Many children may also practice reading, art, and image recognition at home, but doing so on a daily basis in a resource-rich environment helps children develop a love of learning and master higher cognitive functions like impulse control, attention, memory, and reasoning that will aid them in more complex learning environments down the road.
In addition to benefiting children’s early development, preschool actually holds societal benefits for communities as a whole, too. Research has shown that children who receive a preschool education are less likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and even become incarcerated as adults.
Preschool holds a multitude of benefits for children, but the cost is still the strongest prohibitive factor for families who do not enroll their children in pre-K programs. Universal preschool would make these educational benefits available for all and help close the educational gap between middle and low-income families by ensuring that marginalized students are not disadvantaged even further by the financial barrier to entry into preschool.