I recently read a New Yorker article (“The Lessons of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Universal Pre-K Initiative,” Rebecca Mead, Sept. 7, 2017) describing how Mayor de Blasio fulfilled his campaign promise to make public pre-K universally available to all four-year-olds in New York City. The scale of this initiative is nationally unprecedented, and it points to the recognition that high-quality preschool can have “long-term positive outcomes on children’s future academic and even post-academic lives.”
I couldn’t help but compare this with Tucson’s approach to expanding pre-school. On November 7, 2017, voters in the city of Tucson will consider Proposition 204, Strong Start Tucson, authorizing a half-cent sales tax to fund scholarships for 8000 3- and 4-year-olds to attend high-quality preschool programs.
In contrast to Mayor de Blasio’s initiative, Strong Start Tucson was initiated by educators and advocates for children and would channel funds to low-income families who may not be able to afford the cost of high-quality preschool. (In Pima County, the median cost is $7200.) Although universal access is a worthy goal, SST is a significant start. It will provide 8000 children with the funds to attend high-quality preschool. It will also help to alleviate the “unprecedented workforce crisis” that we are experiencing today by allowing parents to participate in the labor force. (See the report by the Center for Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow: The Business Case for High-Quality Childcare.)
Unlike Mayor de Blasio, our mayor has not made universal preschool a priority. In the absence of such leadership, Tucson voters must show that we support giving our preschoolers the opportunity they deserve—to start off in an environment that will nurture their academic learning, emotional well-being, and social/behavior skills.
Carol Weinstein, Ed.D.
Emerita Professor of Early Childhood/Elementary Education
Rutgers Graduate School of Education