More than 25,000 out of 240,000 spots in California’s public preschools and other child care programs are expected to disappear this year, according to an Oakland-area organization Emily Alpert quoted this week. That will mean a lot of young children will not get the advantages some research says preschools provide.

Her story explains that, according to one study, for every dollar spent on preschool programs, 16 dollars are saved later in welfare, court costs and taxes.

As Kelly Donivan puts it in the comments, “Preschool can be equated with preventative medicine!” She continues,

The sooner that children get in a classroom with a qualified staff and a curriculum, the better they will do in kindergarten and beyond! I saw the difference with my own kids.

She also agrees with John Borja, who says he believes that the problem is compounded by kindergarten also not being mandatory.

In kindergarten those that have not attended preschool are not socialized and, therefore, for the most part, waste the first months of kindergarten in la-la land. These children are unable to pay attention adequately to perform at the level necessary to achieve kindergarten standards and will be well behind their peers in first grade if the system has not decided to retain them in kindergarten.

Borja also remarks that there are exceptions: “Those exceptions have to do with an aware family dedicated to achievement in their children.”

However, Brian Gulino calls into question the data used to support the argument that preschool is a sure path to better students:

There aren’t a raft of studies on the effects of pre-school, there’s one, the Michigan study you cited. The beneficial effects of the Michigan study are greatly reduced as the income of the parents goes up. In other words pre-school seems to benefit children of poor people more than children of rich people. The study has never been replicated and it seems extreme to base social policy on the results of one study.

On Twitter, Michael Robertson goes further and says,

Overrated: Preschool. Plenty of research shows no long term positive effect.

He links to a 2006 paper from the Community Development Society that concludes that the success of early childhood education programs are mixed (in part because the quality of the programs themselves varies greatly), that results are not guaranteed, and that improvements in social-emotional development may differ from improvements in cognitive development.

A key part of Alpert’s story tells of a mother who decides to cut back on her work hours so she would make little enough money to qualify for free preschool.

Emilio Torres writes that when he was a public interest attorney,

It was always so depressing, the short laugh of disbelief on the other end of the phone after I informed someone who was working two jobs yet was barely scraping by that they made “too much money” for me to help them.

She made the right decision, commented Dylan Mann:

The mom mentioned in this article made a rational choice to reduce her income to attain free preschool, a valuable social entitlement, which she and her kids desperately need, of course. What parent in her situation wouldn’t do exactly the same thing? With these and other social programs, it seems like you are either “poor” and you get the government benefit or you are “well-off” and you don’t get it.

Comments quoted here may have been edited for spelling, typographical errors, punctation or clarity.

I’m Grant Barrett, engagement editor for, in part a new-fangled opinion editor. Got some strong opinions and ideas? Let me help you get them in front of tens of thousands of readers. Drop me a line at or call me at (619) 550-5666.

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