New York City received a lot of attention recently with a bold promise made to some of its youngest residents: Mayor Bill de Blasio ran on a campaign to fund full-day public preschool for all New York City children through a modest increased income tax on residents making more than $500,000 a year. Although Mayor de Blasio's tax proposal was not approved by the state legislature or supported by New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo, the legislature did approve statewide funding for pre-K that included a $300 million increase for New York City's preschool program. New York City is moving forward for children -- and it isn't the only major city and school district making strides towards providing high-quality public preschool programs to as many children as possible. Several large districts that have been doing this for a while are already seeing strong results.
There must be a vision for preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten classrooms as engaging, interactive environments, full of open-ended opportunities for play as learning, and focused on early childhood learning guidelines that address the whole child's learning and development, not just on early academics.
Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty, the United States is still not a fair playing field for millions of children afflicted by preventable poverty, hunger, homelessness, sickness, poor education and violence in the world's richest economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $15.7 trillion. Every fifth child (16.1 million) is poor, and every tenth child (7.1 million) is extremely poor. Children are the poorest age group and the younger they are the poorer they are. Every fourth infant, toddler and preschool child (5 million) is poor; 1 in 8 is extremely poor. A majority of our one- and two-year-olds are already children of color. In five years children of color who are disproportionately poor, nearly 1 in 3, will be a majority of all children in America and of our future workforce, military and consumers. But millions of them are unready for school, poorly educated and unprepared to face the future.