By: Katy Barth
President Barack Obama has proposed giving a prekindergarten public education for every child in America.
Locally that’s already available.
Waverly Community Schools
“In our case we’re already ahead of the curve in providing these services to our community,” said Eldon McGraw, director of communications for Waverly Community Schools. “We launched a pre-kindergarten through first grade program two years ago in Waverly to address the needs in Waverly.”
The tuition per student is $138 per month and there is a one-time $50 registration fee, McGraw said. The program runs from mid-September until mid-May.
In Michigan, families can qualify for tuition help based on their financial status or the risk factors in the child’s learning developmental skills, said McGraw.
McGraw said Waverly Community Schools had four elementary school buildings that held prekindergarten to fourth grade classrooms. Two years ago the structure of these buildings changed.
One building is now Colt Elementary School, which is used for prekindergarten through first grade classes.
“It’s been an advantage,” said McGraw. “All of our kindergarten staff is able to combine ideas … since they are working next door to each other for the first time in their careers. It’s been very successful.”
Second through fourth grade classes are held in two buildings. The fourth building has been closed.
“Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning the better he or she does down the road,” Obama said during his State of the Union speech.
Tahirih Morrison, Lansing Township resident and mother of two, disagrees with the idea. One of Morrison’s children attended preschool while the other did not. Her children are now 14 and 16. Morrison said throughout her children’s education, the child who didn’t attend preschool has been a better student than the child who did.
“It’s like a glorified daycare,” said Morrison. “So what’s the point?”
But Obama said that an earlier education boosts graduation rates and preschool attendants are better able to hold a steady job. And Michigan statistics appear to agree.
Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program, a preschool program for at-risk four-year-old students, states that 58 percent of students participating in the readiness program graduated on time compared to 43 percent of students who did not participate.
The HighScope Perry Preschool Study was the first study done on the effects a preschool education has on higher education and income made later in life. In Ypsilanti, MI., the study randomly divided three- and four-year-old students into two groups, one that received a preschool education and one that didn’t. The study showed the group who attended prekindergarten performed better throughout their kindergarten through 12th grade education. It also shows that 20 percent more prekindergarten participants earned $20,000 annually at the age of 40.
Michigan’s Center for Public Education has more information on the benefits of prekindergarten participation.