Editorial: Universal preschool would benefit city’s children

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

Sending children to preschool is a primary step in preparing them for their academic careers, and members of the Pittsburgh municipal government have recognized this. 

Yesterday, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an op-ed written by Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak regarding the creation of universal prekindergarten classes in Pittsburgh. The program Rudiak suggests would provide free preschool programs across the city for families who cannot afford traditional programs.

Developing a program such as this in Pittsburgh would greatly benefit the community. Although preschool is not mandatory for children living in Pittsburgh, all children should be given the opportunity to attend preschool and be better prepared for kindergarten.

In her op-ed, Rudiak suggests beginning a program similar to Pittsburgh Promise. Pittsburgh Promise is an organization that sends eligible students in the Pittsburgh Public School District to trade schools or college in the state of Pennsylvania with a scholarship of up to $40,000. Similarly, Rudiak wants to send young children to preschool with a similar scholarship that would reduce the cost of preschool or cover the cost completely.

In Pittsburgh, many families rely on alternative preschool programs such as Head Start, which is federally funded for families whose household income does not exceed 100 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines, to educate their young children. But, if a family’s income increases to the point that they no longer qualify for aid, or if their children do not qualify for alternative programs, then they are left with the option of either sending their children to expensive preschool programs — which can exceed $600 a month — or not sending their children to preschool at all. 

Rudiak is not alone in her recognition of the importance of preschool. Gov. Tom Corbett has asked the state legislature to approve an additional $10 million to be budgeted toward the development of universal preschool across the state, but even if the state legislature approves of the plan, it’s unlikely that the funding will be sufficient.

Preschool and similar programs give children the opportunity to develop socially and intellectually. Studies have shown that students who attend preschool score higher on kindergarten readiness tests, have lower instances of grade repetition and lower placement in special education programs. Additionally, students who participated in preschool programs were also more socially adapted to other students and a classroom environment.

Instating a Preschool Promise program in Pittsburgh would greatly benefit both children and parents. Children will be placed in an environment where they will learn skills they will use throughout life, and parents will be able to work and further their careers without worrying about placing their children in daycare or with other relatives for the day.

Enabling more children to attend preschool will set them up for success in the future by readying them for school and teaching skills they might not learn elsewhere.