Taxpayer’s Money for Playdough, Building Blocks and Recess? By Lizzie O’Rourke (2016)

Students smirked when the sophomore class’s winter final exam was switched from a  daunting three hour test to a mere 500 word argumentative essay  as part of the New York Times’  Student Editorial Contest. “500 words, I could write that in fifteen minutes!” some rebuffed. However, sophomores soon began to panic  as the difficulty of the challenge crept in: how can you make  a sound argument in only 500 words? Every word would count and all nonessential syllables would need to be banished from the page. 

It was the ultimate test and a measure of our sophomores’ overall progress as young writers

 Better yet, two months later, Ms. Hammond checked her email and learned that Lizzie O’Rourke ‘s essay was the first runner up. Her work now appears on the New York Time’s Learning Blog– and for your reading pleasure,

Taxpayer’s money for playdough, building blocks and recess? Those aren’t exactly the tools that come to mind when we think of bettering our economy and helping our children get the education they deserve. But in all actuality, a preschool education can be extremely beneficial to our children. It provides a solid foundation for education and provides benefits that carry on throughout later school years.

According to data collected by the Kids Count Data Center, in the years of 2009-2011, 54% of children ages 3 to 4 were not enrolled in a preschool program of any sort. Although many states are now pushing taxpayer financed pre-kindergarten schools, the reality is that many children do not have the opportunity to enroll in a program of this kind before “real” school starts.

But is a preschool education really beneficial for our children? Studies show that the answer is an unequivocal yes. Through a good preschool education children have shown increased abilities in language proficiency skills, problem solving skills, vocabulary extensity, and social development (Ahamad, Hamm).

For children of a lower socioeconomic status these benefits increase. A study done by the psychology department at Stanford University found that, starting as early as 18 months old, differences in vocabulary banks and language processing skills can be noticed between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds. This disparity in ability is described as the “achievement gap.” This gap, determined by income, continues to grow larger as students age. This gap causes long-term disadvantages and consequences. Research shows that a preschool education can help to close this gap. One study found that low-income children were able to increase their IQs to the same level as their peers of a higher income when provided with a quality preschool education (Duncan, Sojourner). These children then become less likely to be incarcerated as an adult, less likely to repeat a grade and more likely to graduate from high school (Lerner).

An investment is “the investing of money or capital in order to gain profitable returns, as interest, income, or appreciation in value” This is how using taxpayer money to fund preschools should be thought of: an investment. Investing in playdough and snack time seems pointless, but educational and economic improvements are not. A solid educational foundation is vital for a success. Preschool is where this foundation is built. Somewhere amongst coloring books and crayons children are learning skills that will stay with them throughout life. These skills improve academic performance, which produces better-educated people for our workforce, which in turn benefits our economy.