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The middle class “preschool pinch”

A national study by the preschool advocacy group Pre-K Now found that hundreds of thousands of middle-income families across the country can’t afford preschool, and that the situation’s only worsening with the economic crisis.

According to the Associated Press story on the report:

A middle-class family of four in Massachusetts needs to earn $94,500 a year to afford rent, food, health care and pre-k – $50,000 more than the state pre-k program’s eligibility threshold. That means nearly 32,000 of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds are caught in the middle.

Read the full article here.

How serious is this problem in California? Is it an issue that needs more attention?

image from kaylhew’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • John

    Once upon a time before Kindergarten became first grade and twelfth grade became thirteenth grade Kindergarten provided what Pre-K provides today.

    Anyway, squeezing the middle class kids out of Pre-K enrollment will help catch them down with the poorer kids with nearly nobody will being “left behind” because most everyone will be more equal. Once this is “achieved” there’ll be a solid voting majority that can vote (demand) for those selfish greedy rich upper class Pre-K graduates to “spread around” their earned/inherited wealth and subject their Real Estate to Rent (& Landlord) Control, because, “YES WE CAN!”

  • Sue

    No big loss, really. Middle class preschool is a luxury that won’t have much impact if it’s lost. Younger son didn’t go to preschool at all, and he thrived in kindergarten anyway. He’s still thriving in 6th grade.

    Older son’s preschools were about his language deficits. The child development experts I’ve talked with seem to consider preschool a catch-up mechanism for young children with inadequate homes (no books in the home, single parent working full time for very low wages with no time to interact with the child) or for kids with disabilities like mine.

    Preserving the preschools that serve the impoverished and disabled should be the priority. Getting those kids caught up to their middle class, non-disabled peers is a better investment for the next generation’s future.

  • John

    Sue: Could you please list the “child development experts” who “SEEM” to limit the value of preschool as a catch-up mechanism for young children with inadequate homes OR for kids with disabilities?

    Your “informed” conclusion flies in the face of the research and developmental theorists I became acquainted with while earning a graduate degree in Child Development or from the numerous seminars and workshops I attended during my twenty-five years as an Early Childhood Special Educator.

    Knowing your prowess as a ‘General Knowledge Practitioner,’ I get a bit nervous when you make statements that contradict educated assumptions.
    Ignoring certain assumptions of Einstein that contradicted educated thought proved to be a big mistake. Therefore, I’ve decided to exercise due caution before dismissing some of the things you write as pure bunk!

    I’m only aware of educated thinking/Sue thinking contradictions to date, but willing to keep an open mind. How about you?

  • Sue

    The primary expert was Shirley Devine – at least I think that was her first name. She taught at SF City college, and led a lunch-time parenting group that my employer provided at the office. I don’t remember whether she held a Master’s or a Doctorate degree in child development.

    Among other conversations, was the story of her daughter’s kindergarten teacher refusing to believe that this exceptionally bright, articulate, and cooperative little girl hadn’t attended any preschool, and had learned at home everything that so impressed the teacher. The parenting group was discontinued before younger son was born, 1997, so it’s been a long time, and I don’t have any more information.

    The other “experts” would be authors of whichever parenting books my SIL loaned or gave us when older son was a baby. Those would have been books she bought for her son, born in 1990, and I’m pretty sure I passed them along to the next new parent in my circle.

    So, it’s quite possible that my information and experts are out of date. I haven’t tried to keep current, since my kids are well beyond preschool.

    Who are your experts?

    Your graduate studies would have been prior to 1983 -before you began your 25 years of teaching – right?

    And the last seminar or workshop would have been sometime before you quit teaching – when was that?

  • Susan

    What constitutes a middle class? How many can afford a mortgage/rent, health care, other costs, and 1 $1500 a month cost for preschool?

    Since many will not afford, I think a full day Kindergarten class should be mandatory to make up the time lost for these “middle class” kids.

  • Another_Teacher

    Kindergarten used to be the place where children came to learn social skills, cooperation, and listening in a warm, nurturing, play-based environment. In short, it used to do for all what preschool now does for those lucky enough to have it–bridging the gap between home learning and school learning, smoothing the transition into a classroom work environment.

    Now, kindergarten is the new First Grade. Kids are expected to come to school already able to attend, focus, follow directions, and listen to the read-aloud even when they’d rather run circles round the room.

    The kids I’ve served who have come in without preschool, so far, have fallen into one of two categories:

    1) Even tempered, calm children whose parents have frontloaded them with a lot of the preacademic and social skills that are necessary for kindergarten readiness–these do fine without preschool, and might have done FABULOUS with it.

    2) Kids who have never been exposed to group dynamics or boundaries in a setting with multiple kids their age, and spend the first five months tantrumming their way through Kindergarten because they can’t always be first in line or play with the blocks during reading.

    It’s really, really hard to teach the second group the basics of cooperation and compliance when you’re also trying to get everyone to read 45 words and do simple addition–the preschool structure of “First we listen to a story for five minutes, then we have snack, then we have sharing, then we go play outside” is SO much more conducive to helping a child get on board with learning routines than the kindergarten “first we do reading for 45 minutes, then we play for 15 minutes, then we do math for an hour” expectation.

    For that reason alone, I think preschool is crucial. It gives kids a chance to explore the structure of school learning, while also acknowledging that young children need to play.

    Luckily, though, that’s not the only reason.

  • John

    You make a good point Sue! When a doctor makes a recommendation or concludes something about my health I always ask: How long ago did you graduate from medical school? Who are your experts? I of course insist on inspecting his/her personal medical library to check out the age of the books!

    If I determine that he’s not an intern or has been a doctor for more than a decade or two I consider him obsolete and out of date. As we all know, experience coupled with ongoing classes and seminars counts for absolutely nothing.

    If the doctor greeting me in the waiting room has a wrinkle I promptly stomp out the door and don’t look back!

    I assume your son’s teachers all have acne, which is quite possible given the district’s pogrom of older (higher salary scale) teachers during the last six years. Say! Based on your criteria of professional competence you would make a great OPS Human Resources Director. Those older teachers would be gone lickity split and the district would save a bundle!

    By the way, what do you know about the developmental under pinning of developmental theory and it’s contributions to contemporary practices in Early Childhood Education? Piaget, who died in 1980, and other developmental theorists of considerable prominence are old dead dudes. Why does contemporary thought and practice continue to give their ideas so much credence?

    I dunno. Duh ya know Sue.

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall during your son’s IEP meeting when you spew your pearls of wisdom!

  • Sue

    Well, that’s just rude.

    I answered your question directly and politely. Then I asked simple, direct questions in return, because I wanted to learn more about the subject, and you had previously suggested that you had more knowledge and resources.

    But instead of answering me directly in return, you go off on some wild tangent about doctors and age, and throw in a bunch of implied insults. Huh? Why can’t you answer a direct question? What is wrong with you? If you have information I don’t, and I ask for it, why won’t you share it?
    (Dr. Piaget was mentioned regularly by Ms/Dr. Devine in the parenting group, and she loaned her copies of his books to some of the parents – that was the only piece of potentially-useful information in your whole post, but it wasn’t new to me.)

    Taunts of “I know something you don’t know,” is preschool behavior. How about trying to act like an adult, instead? Or don’t you have any new information, and you’re just pretending to knowledge you don’t actually have?
    (Yes, unlike my last post, these are intended as rhetorical questions – I’m learning not to expect you to answer anything I ask.)

    If you behaved like this in an IEP meeting, first, DH, our son and I would be gone from that meeting so fast, you’d think we’d used our boy’s imaginary Star Trek teleporter to leave. Second, your supervisor and our attorney would receive copies of our recording of the meeting along with our letter of complaint. And third, you’d *never* be in another meeting with our family.

  • John

    Yes, Sue, your answer was very “simple.” Anyway, it’s good to know you’re recording your, I mean your son’s, IEP meetings. You impress me as someone who might benefit from repetitive listening opportunities.

  • Katy Murphy

    OK then… Any more thoughts on preschool access?

  • John

    OK then…When discussing the cost of pre-k access a distinction needs to be made between pre-k (preschool) programs that are part of a “day care” operation and those that are not. When considering the cost and benefits of academic readiness and school socialization provided by a pre-k program, the same benefits can be acquired in a non day care pre-k comprised of three hour pre-k sessions two to five days per week for younger to older preschool age children.

    This stand alone preschool model is much less expensive, especially the parent coop preschool model, and just as effective as a day care affiliated preschool program, if not more so!

    It is disingenuous, and an “advocacy group” political manipulation to restrict the definition and benefits of pre-k to day care affiliated programs. Preschool for a family of four doesn’t require 30% of the family income, child care does. The cost of having a place to warehouse the kids while parents work is a separate issue.