Dear Senator Hannah Beth Jackson and Das Williams;
As a student at Antioch University and a current preschool teacher, I am writing regarding the issue of universal preschool. Since you both have been adjunct faculty members at Antioch, I am sure that you are aware of the social justice issues surrounding universal preschool. I urge you to support the approval of the proposed preschool bill AB-123.
The proposed legislation calls for funding and administration to establish universal preschool programs in California. In addition to what the bill already states, it is important for the bill to address that all preschool programs must implement a non-academic based curriculum for young children in order to avoid poor performance abilities in their later years of schooling. Quality preschool programs are necessary for closing the gap in educational development of young children.
All children should have access to a quality early learning program. High-quality programs teach based on each child’s stage of development, helping them to meet individualized goals as well as valuing each child’s family, language and culture (For more information on quality care, visit www.naeyc.org). Children must have the option of attending a quality early learning program regardless of their social class status. There are programs that help families who are in the lower income class, but very little help is accessible to families in the middle class. It is crucial that we make early education and care accessible for all families in order to allow for equity in family success. Universal preschool provides an opportunity for all children to be educated in the same environment and through the same standards of care.
Once quality preschool is accessible for all families, we must consider what type of education will be implemented. In an interview with a director at a local early learning center, whom would like to remain anonymous, the problem of high-school drop-out rates was discussed. The reasons for these drop-outs could be a result of younger children attending schools that emphasize academic learning at earlier ages. She shared her concerns about universal preschool becoming too academically focused and urged the importance of children being able to play, be outdoors, and just be children. The earlier exposure to academic responsibility in preschool could be a reason for children becoming burned out by the time they reach grade school.
In order to reduce the drop-out/burn out rate in the later years of a child’s schooling career, non-academic based education should be implemented for young children. Children under the age of five are learning from their surroundings and interactions with different people, beings and objects. Providing an education that fosters the understanding of these different natural occurrences will help the child learn about how they personally react to them. It is not necessary to teach young children such structured academics (ex. counting, reading, etc.) because they will learn them naturally if provided with a safe environment with opportunities to explore. Children learn important life and self-regulation skills through their play and the exploration of their surroundings. Non-academic education for younger children will help to reduce the amount of stress that can be related to school.
If this issue is new to you, you might be asking yourself what you may be able to do to help children have access to quality early education. Please support our state’s children and families by approving the proposed bill AB-123. Although the bill is not perfect, it is important to pass in order to broaden access to affordable preschool and to close the gap in developmental learning. After its approval, we should place more value on programs that teach our children important social and self-regulation skills.
I look forward to hearing about how you will support this important issue