Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Back to Opinion

Big Push For Preschool Education

The United States has been a world pioneer in schooling for the people. It started in colonial days in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Every child was compelled to attend a school, starting at an early age. The reason was double: First, it was necessary to teach all children that humans were born in sin and that they must learn to overcome this inherent trait. Secondly, the hours spent in school kept the kids off the streets where they would commit untold mischief. The schools were, in effect, parochial.

In the early years of the 19th century a new dimension was added. Thanks to the rise of a labor movement, workers won the right to vote, although they did not own property. They were organized city by city. Philadelphia was the first. Their platforms differed to reflect their different circumstances. But they all called for free, universal public school education. Their reason was double: Education would enable workers to tackle jobs that needed learning. They also felt that education would prepare the children of workers to hold posts of public responsibility.

At first, the education was applied to the elementary grades. Then high school education followed. And then came public colleges and universities.

Since the financing of schools was local, wealthy neighborhoods had better schools than poor neighborhoods. Some states came to the rescue by helping out with financial aid where needed. Then came federal aid to education.

The latest step in the progress of American education is a movement promoting preschool education for 3- and 4-year-olds. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposes to spend $15 billion over five years on universal preschool education.

Yes, the United States still is a nation that wisely values education.

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.