Is Universal Preschool Really a Good Idea? New Book Examines State-Provided Early-Childhood Education for All

Monday, May 4, 2009
Washington, DC
Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut (Hoover Press, 2009), by Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut (Hoover Press, 2009), by Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Among many educators and public officials in the U.S. is a drumbeat for “universal pre-school”—and for government to provide it to all 4-year olds so as to close school-readiness gaps and prepare kids to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

In his newest book, Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut (Hoover Press, 2009), Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Chester E. Finn, Jr. takes strong issue with this conventional wisdom and examines such fundamental questions as: Which children really need preschool that aren’t already getting it? Will a universal program help the kids who need it most? Will it be a costly windfall for millions of other families? What about Headstart? What defines “quality” in this area and who should provide these services? Is this more about extending the mandate of public-school systems or furnishing needy young children with important skills?

President Obama has stated that early childhood education is one of his top priorities and the federal government should spend an additional $10 billion per year on it.

Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut examines all the crucial angles of this debate and finds major flaws in the “universal” approach to preschool education:

  • It is expensive, with much of the cost a needless subsidy to families making their own preschool or daycare arrangements.

  • It does not deliver the education services that would do the neediest kids the most good.

  • It evades responsibility to retool existing programs.

  • Preschool experts cannot agree on the intended outcomes of such programs.

  • Preschool benefits don’t last unless corollary reforms are made to the public schools.

Chester E. Finn, Jr. is senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, where he chairs the Task Force on K-12 education. He is also president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, senior editor of Education Next, author of 14 earlier books and a former assistant U.S. secretary of education.

(Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut, Hoover Press, ISBN: 978-0-8179-499-4, $15.00 cloth, 123 Pages; May, 2009).

To schedule an interview with Chester E. Finn, Jr. please contact Kevin McVicker with Shirley & Banister Public Affairs at (703) 739-5920 or kmcvicker [at]