Unfortunately, this is one bad idea that has already oozed out of California and into NM. According to my former professor Jennifer Roback Morse:
The proponents of universal preschool consistently overstate its benefits. Their favorite study is a Rand Corporation study that extrapolates the benefits obtained by a program in Chicago in the 1980’s. The results of that particular preschool study have nothing to do with the results the average family could expect, or with the results the entire state of California would be likely to achieve.
The Chicago preschool program was targeted at low-income, high-risk children, most of whom had unmarried parents. Finding that high quality preschool helped this group of people says absolutely nothing about the impact of preschool on the children of middle class, married-couple households. Most of those kids are already in preschool programs anyway;overall, 65% of California children are in some form of preschool. It is pointless to spend taxpayer dollars subsidizing kids who are already well-provided for by their own parents.
These same kinds of studies are used to browbeat stay at home mothers into placing their kids in preschools or daycare centers. “Am I harming my child by depriving him of the enriching preschool experience?” mothers ask me all the time. No, I always reply. Just pay attention to what your child needs, and trust your instincts. Ignore the studies, unless they apply to your situation very specifically. The studies touting universal preschool are based on non-universal samples and have nothing to do with the experiences of most families.
Furthermore, the Chicago program was more than an academic program. It also required parental involvement, and taught parenting skills. Some of the program’s benefits are surely attributable to the improved parenting the mothers used throughout the child’s formative years. Yet the supporters of universal preschool assign all the credit to the one year the child spent in their precious preschool program. After all, we wouldn’t want to give credit to parents. Everyone knows parents are the problem. The sooner we get kids away from their parents and into government run schools, the better off everyone will be.
She also points out the state politics and mandates that will insure that it is a total waste of your money. You should read the whole thing.