Politically speaking, California is a scary place to live. Of greatest concern to me at the moment is the "Preschool for All" initiative that is slated to be on the June 2006 ballot. Personally, I can see many things wrong with this initative, but I know that people will say "Free preschool! Sign me up!" or "If you don't vote for this, you will be hurting our kids" and it will pass. Here's an article from the 'Sacramento Bee' (requires free registration to view) with three studies concerning the effects of preschool on children.
The first example is done by the group that is sponsoring the initiative and shows that children performed better (in kindergarten!) if they went to preschool before kindergarten or lived with parents who read to them regularly. The conclusion they come to is that greater access to preschool will boost academic performance. It studied 10,000 children in CA's lowest performing schools.
The second was done by reasearchers at Stanford and Cal Davis, Berkely, and Santa Barbara who studied 14,162 kindergartners across the country. It concludes that while kindergarteners who attend preschool do tend to do better academically (in kindergarten!) they also found that children who entered preschool earlier were slower to develop socially.
Both of these studies seem pertinent to the issue and well done, except the possibility that the first group was only interested in supporting their agenda. One thing that bothers me about both studies is that they only studied kindergarteners. What happens to these kids for the rest of their lives? That's what I want to know. At any rate, I can rest easy now knowing that reading to my kids is equivilant to preschool! Maybe they should mandate that all parents read to their children instead of spending money on preschool for all.
The final example they use in the article is almost laughable. It is a study of 521 CA Kindergarten teachers. The conclusions are that most CA Kindergarten teachers believe that preschool helps kids. This study was basically an opinion survey and not based on any hard facts, so the only reason I can see that they included it in the article was to boost the pro-universal preschool argument!
Here's a website from a group opposed to the inititive. Granted, many of their arguments are inflamatory in nature but it brings up valid concerns about funding for 'preschool for all' (especially in 'budget crisis' CA) among other things. See #'s 1, 2, and 3. Of greatest concern for me is #12. It is scary beyond belief to me that CA would consider forcing parents to abandon their 2 yo children to the state. And this is not the first I've heard of this idea. It also sounds a death knell for Homeschooling in CA. So far homeschoolers have managed to survive by becoming private schools, but if preschool becomes mandatory that will no longer be possible because the regulations placed on preschools are such that no home could meet them. So then 'they' would have to start making laws specifically for homeschoolers and you can bet they won't be homeschool friendly laws, if 'they' don't outlaw homeschooling altogether.
Parents, that's your scary story for the day because as they say:
'As CA goes, so goes the nation'