“First, Chicago announced that it would make pre-kindergarten universal. By 2021, the city’s 4-year-olds will be able to go to school full time. The pre-K classes will have a student-to-staff ratio of 10:1, as experts recommend.
Many economists believe that good preschool programs are the single most effective way to lift living standards. Research by Dartmouth’s Elizabeth Cascio has found that universal pre-K — while more expensive than targeted, income-based programs — particularly helps poor children. They benefit from being in a diverse classroom.
Of course, pre-K also helps parents with child care. “If you’re working class, your kids are getting the shaft,” Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who taught preschool in his 20s, told me. “You’re basically put in the position of choosing between being a good employee and a good parent.”
Best of all, Chicago fits a national pattern, and a bipartisan one. Other cities and states — Baltimore, Memphis and New York; Florida, Vermont and West Virginia — have also expanded pre-K. Nationally, about 33 percent of 4-year-olds were in state-funded pre-K last year, with another 11 percent in other public programs. It’s a major increase since the start of this century:…”