WSW: Making an Investment in Preschool

Nov 10, 2014

File photo of a teacher and student at a preschool in Seattle in October. On November fourth, Seattle voters approved a $58-million property tax levy to fund subsidized preschool
Credit The Associated Press


Upjohn Institute Economist Tim Bartik says high quality preschool help kids get ready for kindergarten and beyond. 

Bartik's new book is called from Preschool to Prosperity: The Economic Payoff to Early Childhood Education. It's available at the Upjohn Institute website and for sale at Bookbug and Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo. Bartik also writes about the issue frequently on his blog

The research, according to Bartik, shows that high-quality preschool prepares kids better for kindergarten. He says it also helps those children when they grow into adulthood. Bartik says preschool isn't a panacea. He says K-12 education and higher education are also important. But Bartik says research shows high quality preschool is one of the best ways to boost worker skills over time. He says there are spillover economic benefits from a large population of children in preschool. 

Bartik says there has been "pushback" from a few researchers who have questioned if the programs can work on a large scale. But he says most of the broad consensus of researches is that lage high quality preschool programs work. Bartik says programs in Tulsa, Boston and Chicago have all proven to be successful. 

Michigan recently expanded access to preschool for low income families. Bartik says Michigan has moved from below the national average to above the national average. But he says Michigan still lags behind the leading states. Bartik says while expanding the program is good, he has concerns about whether the funding is enough to maintain quality. 

Voters in Seattle approved a ballot initiative on November fourth which enacts a property tax levy for city-subsidized preschool. Bartik says the programs can be enacted at the state or local level. He says there are many different ways that states and school districts have found to fund preschool programs.