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Free, universal preschool exists in DC—so why not the rest of the country?

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It sounds too good to be true: Free, universal preschool for 3 and 4-year-old kids. For working parents, and those who wish they could go back to work (or even just go to the grocery store alone) the idea seems like a beautiful, if unrealistic, dream.

Except that some places—including America's capital city—have figured out how to make universal preschool a reality. In Washington, D.C., 90% of 4-year-olds and 70% of 3-year-olds attend a full-day preschool program for free, according to the Center for American Progress.

Preschool for everyone. For free.

Those two years of no-cost, high-quality preschool have a huge impact on families.

First, the preschoolers are reaping the benefits of preschool. High-quality, center-based care has a ton of benefits, but surprisingly, they're not academic. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found children who attended high-quality center-based care for at least one year had lower rates of emotional, conduct, relationship and attention problems later in life than kids who were watched by a family member or babysitter. These benefits last longer than any temporary boost the kids get in academics.

The second benefit is economic. The incredibly expensive cost of childcare is a huge barrier to paid work for many parents who simply wouldn't be able to afford day care. When D.C. tore down this barrier, the city's maternal work force participation rate increased by more than 10%.

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Universal preschool for 3 and 4 year olds has been proven to be doable and beneficial for families and the wider community.

So why isn't America moving toward universal preschool?

Well, for one thing, money.

The ways in which states and school districts fund preschool programs vary across America.

Funding for preschool programs can come from the federal, state and local governments, and even the private sector, but the ratios depend on the state you're in.

Basically, universal preschool programs have to be championed at the state level, and different states have wildly different ideas about how important preschool is, who should have access and how to fund it.

Some states fund preschool programs with gambling revenue. Others have funneled money from tobacco settlements into educating 4-year-olds. Utah famously made a bet with Goldman Sachs to fund preschool for kids from low-income homes.

The U.S. Constitution puts the responsibility of education on the states, but state constitutions vary. Some explicitly protect the rights of preschoolers to public education, while others (looking at you, Idaho) are arguably more open to interpretation on this issue.

D.C and several other states include preschool or "voluntary prekindergarten" funding in their education funding formula, a model that research suggests is the best, most stable was to fund these programs. In the 2016-17 school year, D.C. spent $16,996 in state funding per child, as overseen by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. The national average? Just $5,008.

But where do those thousands of dollars come from? Federal funding typically makes up a very small piece of the pie for K-12 funding, usually under 10%. The next biggest chunk of funding is from the state but and local governments make up the bulk of funding for K-12 education in America. So if universal preschool is part of a K-12 funding model, taxpayers are paying for it.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, 18 states got federal Preschool Development Grants in 2017, while seven states didn't invest any state money in preschool at all.

As Steve Barnett of the National Institute for Early Education Research told NPR, "The growing inequality between states that have moved ahead and invested in quality preschool programs and states that have done nothing is really stark."

In the Dakotas, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and New Hampshire, state dollars don't go to preschool programs (Montana just recently got its pilot program up and running).

But in Florida, voluntary prekindergarten has been free for all 4 year old children for years, and Georgia also boasts a long-standing free-to-all prekindergarten program. It's the same story in Oklahoma, where 74% of four-year-olds attend school.

Vermont, California and Wisconsin also offer Pre-K programs, and West Virginia, Alabama, New York, Michigan and Rhode Island have all increased pre-K enrollment rates in recent years. So too have Mississippi and New Jersey.

But pre-K isn't always universal preschool

What sets such state programs apart from D.C.'s universal preschool programs is that in some states, not every child will qualify for enrollment, making the preschool not "universal." And, pre-K is often just for 4-year-olds. Eighty-six percent of kids in state-funded preschool programs are 4 years old, but there are plenty of 3 year olds who are ready for preschool.

There's another layer here too that makes D.C.'s system so enviable: In D.C., preschools must offer at least 6.5 hours of care per day, but in many states pre-K is just a half-day program. In some states pre-kindergarteners might be in school for only a few hours a week. There are few jobs parents can work within that small window of time.

Still, economists estimate the potential benefits of such pre-K programs are several times greater than the costs, not because parents are getting back to work, but because of lower societal costs (like lower spending on the criminal justice system and social support programs) and greater future earning potential for pre-K graduates.

If the economic returns of one year of half day pre-K is good, then imagine what a full day of care for two years could do if expanded nationwide.

Universal preschool in other nations

It's not surprising that many other countries have already figured out what D.C. did and implemented it on a wider scale.

Since 2000 all British 4-year-olds have access to part-time preschool, and the plan was extended to 3-year-old children in 2005. No surprise, maternal workforce participation rates went up there, too.

In Norway, almost all preschoolers go to free preschool and the practice is regarded as a citizen's right after 30 years of steadily increasing enrollment.

France has it. Finland has it. Spain has it. Mexico has it. China is aiming for it, with a goal of getting 85% of 3 to 6 year old kids into preschool by 2020.

Closer to home, the Canadian province of Québec has something that's not quite universal preschool (the demand is too high to get all the kids into the high-quality center-based care), but rather a steeply subsidized childcare program that saw women's workforce participation go from 74% to about 87% over a couple decades, CBC reports.

The rest of Canada is still waiting for relief from sky-high day care costs and so, of course, is America. But the blueprint for it is right there in the capital city of the United States.

Universal preschool has made D.C. a better place for families, and it's time to make it truly universal for all Americans.

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Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

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By: Justine LoMonaco


From the moment my daughter was born, I felt an innate need to care for her. The more I experienced motherhood, I realized that sometimes this was simple―after all, I was hardwired to respond to her cries and quickly came to know her better than anyone else ever could―but sometimes it came with mountains of self-doubt.

This was especially true when it came to feeding. Originally, I told myself we would breastfeed―exclusively. I had built up the idea in my mind that this was the correct way of feeding my child, and that anything else was somehow cheating. Plus, I love the connection it brought us, and so many of my favorite early memories are just my baby and me (at all hours of night), as close as two people can be as I fed her from my breast.

Over time, though, something started to shift. I realized I felt trapped by my daughter's feeding schedule. I felt isolated in the fact that she needed me―only me―and that I couldn't ask for help with this monumental task even if I truly needed it. While I was still so grateful that I was able to breastfeed without much difficulty, a growing part of me began fantasizing about the freedom and shared burden that would come if we bottle fed, even just on occasion.

I was unsure what to expect the first time we tried a bottle. I worried it would upset her stomach or cause uncomfortable gas. I worried she would reject the bottle entirely, meaning the freedom I hoped for would remain out of reach. But in just a few seconds, those worries disappeared as I watched her happily feed from the bottle.

What I really didn't expect? The guilt that came as I watched her do so. Was I robbing her of that original connection we'd had with breastfeeding? Was I setting her up for confusion if and when we did go back to nursing? Was I failing at something without even realizing it?

In discussing with my friends, I've learned this guilt is an all too common thing. But I've also learned there are so many reasons why it's time to let it go.

1) I'm letting go of guilt because...I shouldn't feel guilty about sharing the connection with my baby. It's true that now I'm no longer the only one who can feed and comfort her any time of day or night. But what that really means is that now the door is open for other people who love her (my partner, grandparents, older siblings) to take part in this incredible gift. The first time I watched my husband's eyes light up as he fed our baby, I knew that I had made the right choice.

2) I'm letting go of guilt because...the right bottle will prevent any discomfort. It took us a bit of trial and error to find the right bottle that worked for my baby, but once we did, we rarely dealt with gas or discomfort―and the convenience of being able to pack along a meal for my child meant she never had to wait to eat when she was hungry. Dr. Brown's became my partner in this process, offering a wide variety of bottles and nipples designed to mimic the flow of my own milk and reduce colic and excess spitting up. When we found the right one, it changed everything.

3) I'm letting go of guilt because...I've found my joy in motherhood again. That trapped feeling that had started to overwhelm me? It's completely gone. By removing the pressure on myself to feed my baby a certain way, I realized that it was possible to keep her nourished and healthy―while also letting myself thrive.

So now, sometimes we use the bottle. Sometimes we don't. But no matter how I keep my baby fed, I know we've found the right way―guilt free.


This article is sponsored by Dr. Browns. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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Adele's albums have soothed many hearts through hard times, and now she's going through a big relationship transition of her own.

The singer is separating from her husband Simon Konecki, the father of her 6-year-old son, Angelo James.

"Adele and her partner have separated," Adele's people wrote in a statement to the Associated Press. "They are committed to raising their son together lovingly. As always they ask for privacy. There will be no further comment."

Our hearts go out to Adele. Of course, she doesn't owe anyone any further explanation or discussion of her separation, but by announcing it publicly, she is shining a light on a family dynamic that is so common but not talked about as much as it should be: Co-parenting.

Parenting with an ex is a reality for so many mothers. According to the Pew Research Center, "the likelihood of a child – even one born to two married parents – spending part of their childhood in an unmarried parent household is on the rise."

Angelo James' experience will be similar to many of his peers.

"Increases in divorce mean that more than one-in-five children born within a marriage will experience a parental breakup by age 9, as will more than half of children born within a cohabiting union," Pew notes.

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Adele and Konecki already know a thing or two about how co-parenting works, as Konecki has an older child from a previous relationship.

They can make this work because so many parents are making this work. The reality is, two parents can still be a family, and be a team for their child without being romantic partners.

Decades ago, co-parenting after a divorce wasn't the norm, and a body of research (and the experience of a generation of kids) has changed the way parents do things today. Today, divorce isn't about the end of a family. It's about the evolution of one.

Research suggests joint physical custody is linked to better outcomes for kids than divorce arrangements that don't support shared parenting and that divorced couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse"(so, are friends, basically) are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Co-parenting is good for kids, and clearly, Adele and Konecki are committed to being a team for Angelo James.

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Beyoncé's new Netflix documentary Homecoming hit the streaming service today and gives us an honest look at how difficult her twin pregnancy was.

"My body went through more than I knew it could," she says in the film, revealing that her pregnancy with Sir and Rumi was a shock right from the beginning, and the surprises kept coming.

In the film she reveals that her second pregnancy was unexpected, "And it ended up being twins which was even more of a surprise," she explains.

Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé | Official Trailer | Netflix

The pregnancy was rough. Beyoncé developed preeclampsia, a condition that impacts about 5 to 8% of pregnancies and results in high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the mother's urine. Preeclampsia poses risks to both the mother and the baby. People who are pregnant with multiples, like Beyoncé was, are more at risk to develop preeclampsia, and the only real cure for the condition is to give birth, which proved to be another medical challenge for Beyoncé.

"In the womb, one of my babies' hearts paused a few times so I had to get an emergency C-section," she shares in the film.

Thankfully, Beyoncé made it through her extremely difficult pregnancy, but the physical challenges didn't end there. The road to rehabilitation for the performer was difficult because, as she explains, she was trying to learn new choreography while her body was repairing cut muscles and her mind just wanted to be home with her children.

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"There were days that I thought I'd never be the same. I'd never be the same physically, my strength and endurance would never be the same," Beyoncé recalls.

We know that becoming a mother changes us in so many ways, and in Homecoming, Beyoncé shows the world the strength that mothers possess, and rejects any ideas about "bouncing back."

Becoming a mother is hard, but it is so worth it, and Beyoncé isn't looking backward—she's looking at a mother in the mirror and loving who and what she sees. "I just feel like I'm just a new woman in a new chapter of my life and I'm not even trying to be who I was," Beyoncé said in the documentary. "It's so beautiful that children do that to you."

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A new study has some people thinking twice about kissing their bearded partners, or maybe even letting those with beards kiss the baby—but there's a lot to unpack here.

According to Swiss researchers, bearded men are carrying around more bacteria than dogs do. A lot more. But read on before you send dad off to the bathroom with a razor and ask him to pull a Jason Momoa (yes, he's recently clean-shaven. RIP Aquaman's beard).

As the BBC reports, scientists swabbed the beards of 18 men and the necks of 30 dogs. When they compared the samples, they learned beards have a higher bacterial load than dog fur.

Dudes who love their beards are already clapping back against the way the science was reported in the media though, noting that the sample size in this study was super small and, importantly, that the scientists didn't swab any beardless men.

The study wasn't even about beards, really. The point of the study, which was published in July 2018 in the journal European Radiology, was to determine if veterinarians could borrow human MRI machines to scan dogs without posing a risk to human patients.

"Our study shows that bearded men harbour significantly higher burden of microbes and more human-pathogenic strains than dogs," the authors wrote, noting that when MRI scanners are used for both dogs and humans, they're cleaned very well after veterinary use, and actually have a "lower bacterial load compared with scanners used exclusively for humans."

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Another important point to note is that most bacteria aren't actually dangerous to humans, and some can be really good for us (that's why some scientists want us to let our kids get dirty).

This little study wasn't supposed to set off a beard panic, it was just supposed to prove that dogs and people can safely share an MRI machine. There is previous research on beards and bacteria though, that suggests they're not all bad.

Another study done in 2014 and published in the Journal of Hospital Infection looked at a much larger sample of human faces (men who work in healthcare), both bearded and clean shaven, and actually found that people who shaved their faces were carrying around more Staph bacteria than those with facial hair.

"Overall, colonization is similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair; however, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without facial hair," the researchers wrote.

A year after that, a local news station in New Mexico did its own "study" on beards, one that wasn't super scientific but did go viral and prompted a flurry of headlines insisting beards are as dirty as toilets. That claim has been debunked.

So, before you ban bearded people from kissing the baby (or yourself) consider that we all have some bacteria on our faces. Dads should certainly wash their beards well, but they're not as dirty as a toilet.

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From toddlers to teens, most kids love Easter Egg hunts. But the traditional Easter game can be a bit challenging for small ones and those with disabilities—especially kids with mobility disabilities or children who struggle with social interactions. Sadly, as much as you try to nudge them in the right direction, your efforts are often in vain.

Thankfully, there's a brilliant hack that helps kids of all ages find the colorful eggs without the stress. The best part? It's also great for parents and hosts that can't remember where they hid the eggs (yup, been there, done that!)

We're thankful Facebook page Noah's Miracle had moms in mind when he shared an image of helium-filled, colored balloons adhered to plastic eggs to give attention to the location of each egg.

"Great idea for children with mobility challenges so that they can participate in Easter egg hunts easier and remain in wheelchairs & gait trainers & walkers," says the caption in the post that's garnered thousands of Facebook comments and shares since its posting two years ago.

Now we can't control if April showers will put a damper on your hunt, but this hack is a surefire way to get the whole crowd involved.

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