Study: Universal preschool a boon
March 30. 2005
LOS ANGELES - High-quality, universal preschool for all 4-year-olds in California would generate $2.62 in benefits for every public dollar spent, according to a new economic analysis released Tuesday by the Rand Corp.
The cost-benefits study by the Santa Monica-based think tank estimated average annual costs of $1.7 billion for universal preschool would be offset in the long-term by a reduction in the high school dropout rate, less juvenile crime and a more productive work force.
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which advocates voluntary preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in California by 2013, funded the study.
"Rand's analysis demonstrates that preschool is definitely a worthwhile investment," said Lew Platt, chairman of The Boeing Co., who also is a trustee for the Packard Foundation.
The investment for each class of 4-year-old preschoolers would be returned by age 14 and returns to the economy would continue to accrue over their adult years, Platt said during a conference call with reporters.
"Preschool returns over 10 percent annually on the funds invested, trouncing the average government bond or savings account and nearly matching the historical returns of the stock market," Platt said.
The Rand study predicted that universal preschool would lead to 13,764 fewer children retained a grade during their K-12 years; 10,010 additional high school graduates; 4,737 fewer cases of child abuse or neglect; and 7,329 fewer juvenile arrests.
Elizabeth Chaponot, campus director of Lycee International de Los Angeles, said preschool makes such a profound impact because it gives children the opportunity to learn the culture and language of school.
The 15 bright-eyed students in her school's pre-kindergarten class are not only learning French, but also how to work together, how to master holding a pencil and how to draw the curves and lines needed next year for writing.
"They won't be left behind in kindergarten or first grade when things get more complicated," Chaponot said.
The study was based on the creation of a publicly financed, voluntary preschool program for all 4-year-olds that would feature small classes, qualified teachers and the use of old or new facilities run by public or private provid-ers.
Only two states, Georgia and Oklahoma, currently have voluntary preschool programs available to all 4-year-olds. New York, West Virginia and Florida have committed to universal preschool programs, but they have yet to be either fully funded or implemented.