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Packard Explores Universal Pre-K in California
October 16, 2002

"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity."
—Douglas MacArthur


An article in the October 10th San Jose Mercury News reported that the David and Lucile Packard Foundation is exploring ways to help create a free universal preschool system in California that would put the state at the forefront of national efforts to teach all 3- and 4-year-olds the skills they need to succeed in school. According to the article...

"Packard, one of the nation's largest private foundations and already renowned for its support of children's programs, will spend the next six months devising a plan that could become the foundation for a drive to make California a preschool model for the nation. The board of the Los Altos foundation will decide in March whether putting its reputation behind universal preschool makes sense, as it cuts its operation to match an endowment that has shrunk $13 billion to $3.8 billion in the last three years.

"Packard would not donate money to finance a preschool system, but would fund efforts to build public support for universal preschool. But even Packard's decision to study the issue gives a boost to an expensive and controversial idea, which could cost between $6,000 and $12,000 a year per child. There are about 1.5 million children of preschool age in California, a number that is expected to gradually increase over the next 20 years. Several states are exploring or in the process of building universal preschool systems, but Georgia is the only one so far to offer free schooling to all 4-year-olds....

"Some question a strategy that requires so much public money for 3- and 4-year-olds, when brain development research shows that children need support and nurturing beginning with infancy to develop good academic and social skills down the line....But Packard's Salisbury said universal preschool makes the most sense.

``'We don't believe this is a decision to rob Peter to pay Paul,' she said. 'The public is much more ready to think about supporting the early education of 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool than they are to think about what it takes to support infants and toddlers. The strategic thinking is: The way to get to the whole challenge is to start with 3- and 4-year-olds.'

"Besides Georgia, New York is in the process of building a universal preschool system. Florida voters will decide next month whether to spend as much as $650 million a year on universal preschool. And Seattle voters will decide next year whether to tax espresso drinks to pay for a preschool system.

"Salisbury said Packard agrees that universal preschool should incorporate the current early childhood education system, and not create a new system based entirely at public schools. At least part of the program would be free to all parents, but some parents would probably have to pay for before- and after-hours care."

To learn more about the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, go to their web site, www.packard.org.

You can now search through the entire library of Exchange books, Beginnings Workshops, and back issues by author, by title or by topics. Go to the Exchange Bookstore at www.ChildCareExchange.com to check this out.


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