Pre-kindergarten: A smart investment yields real results for kids and taxpayers

There is a quiet debate going on in Washington right now (in various venues) over the extent of the state’s fiscal responsibility for early learning.

This is a welcome shift in public dialogue, away from a debate over the merits of pre-k for improved academic outcomes, child health, and other benefits, and toward a discussion of how we’re going to fulfill our commitment to educational opportunity for our kids.

As reported by Early Ed Watch:

…participating in just the pre-k program had significant positive impacts on high school completion and also reduced special education placements and grade retention. In other words, the…pre-k intervention had some positive impacts even when children didn’t receive sustained elementary supports.

But the greatest benefits were for youngsters who participated in both the pre-k and the school-age interventions. Particularly important, students who participated in the full intervention had higher test scores at age 17–something that wasn’t true for the other groups.

Intervention Impacts (relative to comparison group) Benefit to Society per $ Invested[1]
Preschool only Increased high school completion

Reduced special education placement

Reduced grade retention

$2.88
School-age only Reduced grade retention and special education placements $1.42
Preschool and school age Reduced grade retention and special education placements

Higher achievement test scores (age 17)

$3.59
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