April 17, 2014

Scrolling Headlines:

John Ashcroft faces criticism during speech -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass football continues move in new direction in annual Spring Game -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Student rally in support of Gordon, LGBTQ community -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thousands gather in Amherst Commons for 23rd Annual Extravaganja -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sexual violence is not ‘normal’ -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

One year after Boston Marathon bombings, UMass doctor Pierre Rouzier continues passion to help -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Photo Slideshow: UMass United Rally -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Get Yourself Tested at UMass -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Library labyrinth targets stress -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

There is nothing to debate about global warming -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass hits the road to take on LaSalle -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

No. 11 UMass women’s lacrosse looks to extend winning streak against Richmond -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive latest McCormack Executive-in-Residence -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Got a little Irish in you? -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass doctoral student awarded Soros Fellowship -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass Dressage Team discusses the lesser-known sport -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Canelas: Things worth watching in Spring Game 2014 -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

‘The Walking Dead’ finale resurrects a dull season -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five places to study at UMass -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

UMass tennis team battles injuries as season comes to an end -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Policy proposal for a universal preschool program

jurvetson/Flickr

Day-in and day-out, politicians and pundits tout their preferred policies to improve the current economic situation. The majority of the proposals put forth from all ends of the political spectrum are nothing short of the same ideas that have been hanging around for years.

On occasion, an idea with real potential emerges from the endless chatter. In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced support for an idea that fits this mold: working with states to develop a high-quality preschool system accessible to all children.

With each side offering a different path to achieve the shared goals of economic security and debt reduction, it is imperative to search for policies that partially fulfill the ideals of the left and the right. A universal preschool program is a policy proposal that would provide each side with something to latch onto.

Research conducted by Nobel-Prize-winning economist James Heckman has shown that investing in a high-quality preschool program leads to economic and social benefits that are unmatched by many other public expenditures. According to Heckman, children who attend a high-quality preschool program, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, see an increase in educational attainment, enjoy higher lifetime earnings, and more fully develop their social skills. These improvements in child outcomes offer the country invaluable economic and societal benefits that could easily be realized if lawmakers move to implement a high-quality, universally accessible preschool program.

While most across the political landscape would agree that these economic benefits are valuable and providing universal access to preschool is a noble goal, many of those same people would argue that we simply cannot afford to take on such an ambitious endeavor.

There would be start-up costs, of course; there is no question about that. Overtime, however, there would be significant savings in other areas of government spending. For instance, children who attend a high-quality preschool program are less likely to commit crimes, according to a HighScope Perry Study. Reducing the crime rate is a significant benefit to society on its own, but less crime would also mean less taxpayer money spent on the criminal justice system.

Other savings resulting from a universal preschool program could come from the education budgets. Access to a high-quality preschool program reduces the chances of students developing behavioral problems, thus reducing government spending on additional resources geared toward educating these students, according to studies.

Adding a universally accessible preschool program to the public education system would undoubtedly create a vast number of jobs. It would take thousands of administrators to set up and maintain the programs across the country as well as many more qualified teachers to manage the classrooms.

For the last several years, the main focus of fiscal and economic policy has been deficit reduction. Although deficit reduction is important, it has overshadowed the most pressing issue of our time: unemployment. Unemployment has trended downward nationally in most recent months, but has remained stubbornly high in many areas of the country. If lawmakers seek to provide economic security for individuals and families, programs to create jobs need to be a part of any deals reached.

In addition to jobs created in the short term, high-quality preschool is also one of the most cost-effective ways to develop a skilled workforce for the future. Research shows that students from underprivileged backgrounds who attend a high-quality pre-school program make significant gains in cognition and social-emotional development. Although this research pertains to a specific group of students, further research suggests that though all students make gains in these areas, those from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to gain the most. A well-trained labor force is vital for any thriving economy. Investing in programs that will enhance our workforce will help put our communities and country on a path toward long-term economic stability.

A universal high-quality preschool program offers huge economic benefits but also comes with the added bonus of appealing to both sides of the political aisle. Proof comes in the form of the state-run preschool programs in the deep red states of Oklahoma and Georgia. With this proposal, Obama offers lawmakers a real chance to begin to solve some of the country’s most pressing economic problems in a bipartisan manner – and they should seize it.

Patrick Kenney is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at pkenney@student.umass.edu.

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