It Will Happen in My Lifetime
When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 my husband; a native Bostonian and die hard Red Sox fan, purchased a t-shirt that read “It happened in my lifetime,” which he still wears to this day with great pride. While it was - and still is - a very appropriate slogan for the Red Sox, I can’t help but think it also lends itself well to the pre-k-for-all cause. The fact that all the political candidates have made pre-k a part of their platforms is telling; pre-k has finally become a major bipartisan issue. Regardless of your political affiliations, one thing is for sure: big changes are in store for pre-k in the very near future.
When I first started teaching I thought I would never see pre-k for all in my lifetime, but now I’m beginning to think I may. During the last ten years, I have seen a gradual shift in the public perception of pre-k. It’s the little things like conferences being offered nationally just for pre-k teachers, or even vendors offering products and services for pre-k (yes, even curriculum!) that give me hope.
In the last ten years the number of states offering pre-k has grown dramatically, states such as Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma now provide pre-k for all. When I was looking for a job teaching public pre-k in 1999 my options were very limited, but as you can see from the map, things have changed.
There are those who are opposed to pre-k for all, and while I don’t have all the answers I can tell them this. The students in my classroom may be identified as “at-risk” when they arrive, but after 190 days spent in our pre-k program, they are so far ahead of their peers who didn’t attend public pre-k that the gap isn’t even a gap anymore - it’s a chasm and it can’t be bridged. Our kindergarten teachers notice a huge difference between those students who did and didn’t attend our public pre-k program. They spend all year trying to play “catch up” with those students who didn’t go to pre-k; many struggle with the higher standards of today’s kindergarten classrooms.
There was a time when kindergarten wasn’t widespread or widely accepted. I believe that pre-k will follow in the footsteps of kindergarten and will someday be accepted and offered in every state to every child. I know that one day, in the not too distant future, my husband and I will be wearing t-shirts with identical slogans, but they will hold different meanings.