National studies of preschool programs reveal that fewer than 3 out of 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a high quality preschool program. Most middle class parents simply can not afford to spend two hundred dollars or more a week to send their children to preschool.
However, it seems the programs are worth the money. Pioneering programs over the last 40 years have linked students who attended well-regarded pre-K programs to going on to graduate from high schools and avoiding crime at higher rates. These studies also stress the importance of quality in those programs, such as focusing on early reading and developing reading skills.
The National Early Childhood Longitudinal Study- Kindergarten Cohort shows that students who attend pre-K are more ready to learn than their peers- scoring higher on reading and math tests and that high quality pre-K programs will provide substantial cost savings to federal, state, and local governments by reducing use of special educations service and lower grade retention for students.
Although there are studies that suggest there is no difference whether or not preschoolers have an advantage over children who do not attend, the majority of research supports the fact that in the long run, preschoolers perform better in school, are less likely to become teen parents, are more likely to attend college, and are more likely to have a job and form stable families.
The state of Georgia made a commitment to universal pre-K in 1995 and it's been a slow climb since. The pre-K curriculum began with a pilot program for at-risk children in 1992 and was opened to all eligible 4-year-olds three years later. Currently there are 84,000 students enrolled in the pre-K programs statewide, with 8,000 more on the waiting list. Although there seems an overload of students, only 60 percent of eligible children are currently enrolled.
Georgia’s pre-K program is fully funded by the Georgia Education Lottery. The program receives 34 percent of the lottery’s total profits, making their budget around $298 million.
In Athens, the Clarke County School District oversees the county’s pre-K programs. There are classrooms located at every elementary school that serve over 720 children and their families in the Athens area.
There are also programs in Clarke County that serve children and families that are younger than age 4, such as Early Head Start and Head Start. Both programs are housed at H.T. Edwards Pre-School and are made available for low income, homeless and publicly assisted families in Athens.
Registering for any of the pre-K programs requires proof of
guardianship, the child’s updated immunization form, proof of residence, the child’s birth certificate and a parent/guardian’s picture ID.
President Obama's new Early Education goals revealed in the State of the Union Address are an appeal to working families. The proposal would not ensure or mandate preschool for everyone, but would instead encourage access to preschool for more people. The preschool program would provide incentives to states for broadening access to preschools.
However, the pre-K proposal is meeting opposition from those who wonder how much funding universal pre-K would need. President Obama and other Early Education advocates see the plan as an investment for the future.