Thursday, January 05, 2006

Universal Pre-Kindergarten: Who will pay the price?



I talked a little about Head Start a couple weeks back, discussing the merits and weaknesses of the program.

California released an interesting study about the merits of UPK, (Universal Pre-Kindergarten). For details, click here.

One of the primary problems with Head Start that I discussed was the problem with hiring and retaining college-educated teachers. The new California study makes estimates "based on the assumption that the preschools would follow quality standards such as having low student-teacher ratios and requiring college-educated teachers."

What is the likelihood that this will happen?? Don't look to New York as a model. According to authors Herzenberg, Price, and Bradley (2005, September 15) from the Economic Policy Institute, NY early childhood educators with a four-year college degree fell from 42% in 1980 to 23% in 2000 and similar levels in the 2000-04 period.

So the California study says that some amazing benefits will be realized if quality programs are provided. Questions of the day: do people believe it, and will they be willing to pay?

OT implications? Our profession provides a lot of preschool services with people who are trained below the baccalaureate level, specifically with COTAs. Are preschool services different when they are provided by an OTR?

We don't have the outcome data to talk about specific service levels and relative benefits to kids. But will someone else simply start comparing Head Start and UPK outcomes and begin making broad policy recommendations about levels of mandated education for professional staff? Don't be surprised. In a state like NY, cost of programs is not always a prime consideration. What's more, will teacher unions step up to protect uncredentialed or lowly credentialed professionals, or will the unions see UPK as a growth industry? Don't underestimate the power of the lobby. I encourage people to watch NY and California preschool closely. Change is in the wind.



Reference:

Herzenberg S., Price, M., & Bradley, D. (2005, September 15). Losing Ground in New York early childhood education: Declining workforce qualifications in an expanding industry, 1980-2004. Retrieved from http://www.epinet.org/issuebriefs/216/ib216e-ny.pdf January 5, 2006.

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