At what age should school begin? Most people in our country would likely answer at the time of Kindergarten, at age five or six. American states and cities generally agree that tax dollars should be collected to fund school from Kindergarten to High School, although the level of tax dollars allocated for education are certainly far too low.
It is encouraging that, finally, it seems that society is willing to invest more attention and hopefully dollars to improve our education system. The problem is that the key to success in the K-12 system is ensuring that more children enter Kindergarten ready and able to succeed. While Arizona struggles to fund All-Day Kindergarten, leading countries of the world ensure success for their children by investing and supporting high quality early childhood education. Preschool is school too! It is no longer headline news that U.S. students lag behind their counterparts from other countries on test scores and educational achievement.
At the same time, a tragically high number of American children never even graduate from high school. Tragically, Kindergarten teachers can predict which students will be at high risk for failure, school dropout, and even on welfare as adults. The groundwork for school success is laid between birth and age five. We need to invest in and support an educational system that recognizes that the bulk of brain development occurs from birth to age five, and that the best way to ensure success is to have all children enter Kindergarten ready to succeed Particularly for children from impoverished or at-risk backgrounds, this only happens through high quality early childhood education.
Viewing education as K-12 (Kindergarten through High School), is limiting, and needs to be replaced with the broader concept of education beginning in Pre-School and continuing to University (P-20). We need to fund all components of the educational continuum fairly. It doesn’t make sense that Kindergarten teachers (who already are underpaid professionals) earn up to double the salary of Pre-school teachers.