Here in New York (my home until Saturday), our new mayor has made universal prekindergarten classes a political priority. Winning pre-K burned some of de Blasio’s leverage with other leaders in Albany and New York. Now that it’s been approved, we’re getting into tricky situations with the schools that want to participate. Religious organizations want to receive government subsidies, but we don’t have clear rules on how to separate secular and spiritual lessons.
An interesting contrast is the UK. There, prekindergarten is already paid for by the government. This morning I was reading in the Guardian about their difficulty in extending it to poor two-year-olds. That’s right: while one of the major cities in the United States is barely able to agree on universal prekindergarten or implement it, the British government is struggling to find organizations to fill all the spots for disadvantaged kids at even younger ages.
Admittedly, the trouble the UK is facing sounds like it may have a nasty class element to it (at least according to that left-leaning newspaper), but it does speak to a difference in how we look at education and social services. On one hand, there is an issue of how to give schooling to everyone. On this side, guaranteeing education for all is a hotly contested idea, and in this city, is apparently uncharted waters.
Yes, I have just recently applauded on this blog testing of new edtech. Yes, I think we should be focusing on finding the most effective ways to deliver education and other services. But I shudder to think of our future when I hear and read so many Americans essentially writing “But what if we give everyone a quality education, and our test scores still don’t shoot up?”