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How an Oregon measure for universal preschool could be a national model

The Multnomah County measure will pay preschool teachers roughly the same amount as public kindergarten teachers – about $ 74,000 per year for head teachers, compared to $ 31,000. Teacher assistants will earn about $ 20 an hour. The measure will eventually raise $ 202 million per year from taxpayers. It plans to add around 7,000 preschool places and hire 2,300 teachers.

“Teacher pay versus affordability is the major crisis in the entire child care landscape,” said Dan Wuori, director of early learning at the Hunt Institute, a policy research group for children. education affiliated with Duke University. “We have had this system broken for decades, where the quality is sometimes lacking and the affordability of the system for families is really subsidized at the expense of a low-income workforce, many of whom are women. color.

“On paper at least, this measure addresses both concerns.”

The policy builds on recent research on preschool education and attempts to avoid the unintended consequences that have befallen other universal preschool programs.

For example, discipline discrimination begins in preschool, research shows, and black boys are much more likely than other children to be suspended or expelled. The measure prohibits expulsions from preschool and provides training on how to tackle difficult behavior.

Another example: The pre-K public in places like New York and Washington, DC, ended up reducing the supply of infant and toddler care programs. The Multnomah County measure aims to prevent this by paying providers to maintain these programs.

The new measure also addresses two of the central debates in early childhood policy.

First, it will be universal and not intended for children from low-income families. (The program will start with the children who need it most and take full effect a decade from now.) Supporters of targeted programs say they are most effective because children from low-income families benefit the most from school kindergarten free, and it is cheaper to do it free for a small group of students.

Universal programs, however, are more popular politically and, according to research, have more benefits for children. They are less segregated and children learn by spending time with peers from different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. Programs are more effective, likely because they are held to higher standards and families invest more in them, according to a study by Elizabeth Cascio, an economist at Dartmouth.

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