Certainly there is more support for programs than when Bob Harbison and former Rep. Joe Eddins first proposed in the late ’90s expanding the state’s small prekindergarten program.
“We’ve got more support for enhancing our education system than I have seen in my lifetime,” said Harbison, 72, who pushed a freshmen lawmaker to introduce the universal prekindergarten bill in 1998.
“I really look at early childhood education as being an investment that pays off, and I think way, way too many people equate investment in early childhood education with what I would call welfare type hand outs to adults,” Harbison said. “I just don’t see it that way.”
Andersen said the state needs a comprehensive data system that can track student progress, assess gaps in services, and ensure the neediest children are receiving high-quality services.
“We are currently going through a process to determine if children who come from disadvantaged homes have access to quality programs,” Andersen said.
Universal prekindergarten programs, which were once high on the agenda of national policy institutions, are falling out of favor.
“There’s a corrective shift back to the established policy of ‘Let’s focus public dollars on the kids who benefit most,’” Fuller said. “Kids from poor families benefit from quality preschool more than children from middle class families, who don’t benefit that much.”