Taxpayer-Funded Preschool Approved

On Jan. 26, the same night the Batavia School Board approved artificial turf, taxpayer-funded preschool was also approved. Tuition that parents have paid for their children to attend preschool at BPS 101 will be replaced by taxpayer funding and a lottery system. This will add over $30,000 to the budget.

Below is a letter written to the school board before the vote, that explains some objections to their decision:

     Making a good, well-thought out decision is impossible without a broad range of information, the negatives as well as the positives. Regarding the proposed changes and expansion to your pre-K program, the information you received from Dr. Newkirk is outdated information. Missing is the 3rd Grade Follow-up the to the Head Start Impact Study, published in 2012 (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/head_start_report.pdf). It is the largest, most comprehensive study of a preschool program that has been done.
     In a nutshell (there are nuances that I will not address here, but you can read in the reports), it concluded that while the Head Start group had much greater success while in the preschool program, any advantages that kids may have from that early start quickly disappear, so that by the end of 3rd grade, overall there’s little to no statistically significant differences in academic achievement or social measures. The only kids that have been shown to have marginal benefit from preschool are those who come from disadvantaged homes, particularly Black students. Middle and upper class White students had more behavioral problems following Head Start. Here’s a link for the Executive Summary of the Head Start Study (“Key Findings” on p.6 of the pdf gives you the bottom line): http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/head_start_executive_summary.pdf
     Now, the evidence from other programs shows that early intervention with special needs kids is effective, and keeping speech and language pathologists on staff to help the children with those sorts of special needs is valuable, but intervention does not mean preschool.  The best, most effective programs start early (before preschool) and involve the family. Group instruction can exist, but it would not be the typical preschool (http://www3.uakron.edu/schulze/401/readings/EARLY_INTERVENTION.htm). This is the type of help I as a taxpayer would gladly support, and the district gets help from the state for Special Education as well.
     Many studies show that very young children do best in the care of parents or other adults who love them and can give them individualized attention. An institutionalized, group setting is not ideal. But as for the typical preschool, I think parents should shoulder the burden if they really want to send their children to preschool. As Mr. Gaspar pointed out, there are plenty of private and religious preschool opportunities out there, so that taxpayer-funded public preschool is unnecessary. Mandatory school age is, after all, 6 yrs old, not preschool or even kindergarten.
     Finally, I noticed from the video of the last meeting that there were some advocating for full day kindergarten, particularly with the excuse that Common Core has placed increased demands that create need for more work and time in school to do that work. Perhaps instead of more school time it would be be better to reduce the load of work. 5 yr olds have a difficult time sitting for long periods as it is, and most are not developmentally ready to handle the many hours of work adults are accustomed to. Just as Mr. Dryden voiced concerns with offering AP classes to students too early, consideration of development should play a part in determining programming at all levels. Early childhood should have healthy doses of play and exploration, not paperwork.
     Thank you for your consideration.
–Sylvia Keppel
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