Iowa Children in Focus
Preschool: A Place in the Middle
IPP News Release — Preschool Options: Important Impacts for Middle-Income Families
Posted March 3, 2011
Policy brief: Read or download (4-page PDF)

CIF Logo IOWA CITY, Iowa — It's a mistake to believe all middle-income families can afford preschool on their own, as proposals in the Iowa Statehouse assume.

"Middle-income students derive benefits from preschool, and many middle-income families will not be able to meet the full cost of preschool on their own,” said Noga O'Connor, research associate for the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project and author of a new report, "Preschool: A Place in the Middle."

"Our research shows that middle-income students are struggling academically, perhaps less than some other students, but enough that we need to be capitalizing on education strategies that we know are successful, and quality preschool is one of those."

O'Connor, a scholar with expertise in education issues, said the cost issue, and the fact that middle-income children can benefit from assured access to preschool, raise questions about current preschool proposals from the Iowa House and Governor Terry Branstad.

"Our report illustrates that proposed eligibility requirements are likely to push the rate of preschool attendance of children in middle-income families below that of children in low- and high-income families," O'Connor said. "A similar proposed policy change with kindergarten or first-grade attendance would send parents to the streets in protest, yet in this case one year seems to make all the difference."

Policy choices will affect universal access for children in Iowa, and full access to preschool "would ensure the academic success of all children, irrespective of income," the report found.

"Separate research, by our organization and others, has shown that high-quality universal preschool is a wise investment with financial, social and fiscal payoffs over the long term," O'Connor noted.

The report is available on the Iowa Policy Project website.

The Iowa Policy Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy research and analysis organization in Iowa City. Reports are on the web at www.iowapolicyproject.org.