The early years: 3-year-olds too young for school?

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: July 31, 2007
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THIS state has been no Johnny-come-lately to the early childhood education movement. Oklahoma's voluntary pre-kindergarten program has made national headlines time and again. Many school districts also have added full-day kindergarten in advance of a 2011 mandate.

For many educators, parents and politicians, the question is no longer whether 4-year-olds need schooling. Or if a six-hour school day is too much for 5-year-olds. The question now is should 3-year-olds find themselves in school, too?

Gov. Brad Henry's proposal for a voluntary 3-year-old pre-kindergarten program got nowhere last year. He'd barely announced his proposal when lawmakers shot it down. The governor seems poised to renew the idea for a pilot program next year, but it's anyone's guess as to whether he'll have more success.

Some already bristle at the idea that a majority of the state's 4-year-olds are attending public school programs. Others shudder at the thought of 3-year-olds in the same building as much older schoolchildren.

The governor is well intentioned. Research is clear about how critical the early years are to brain development.

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