Universal Preschool: Policy Change, Stability, and the Pew Charitable Trusts
Date of Publication: 2009
Publisher: SUNY Press.
The spectacular recent success of state-funded preschool education is revealed and explained in this absorbing study. A quiet revolution has been underway in American education policy since 1995, with forty-one states and the District of Columbia creating some form of state-funded preschool learning. Brenda K. Bushouse tells why it became politically advantageous for state legislators to support universal access to preschool programs and how political and budgetary stability was achieved to spur this initiative. In 2001, the Pew Charitable Trusts announced an ambitious new giving program aimed at creating universal preschool for all three- and four-year-olds. Bushouse reveals Pew’s unorthodox giving program and complex strategy for advancing universal preschool policy change.
ARNOVA Award Committee Synopsis
Policies do not generally change merely because the changes would be useful. Policy is a complex world involving politics, money, ideology, history, culture and tradition, among other factors. Brenda Bushouse’s study of the rise of universal preschool throughout the U.S. patiently unpacks these factors to explain how significant policy change can occur, as well as the limits on such change. But Universal Preschool is more than an archeology of policy; it is also a mystery. The book begins with a cogent explanation of why universal preschool should not have become such a broadly supported policy, and then sets out to explain why it did. The answer, interestingly, relies on social actors from the nonprofit sector, particularly the Pew Charitable Trusts. Moving state by state, Bushouse identifies the stakeholders in the preschool debate and unpacks the give and take among them as a trickle of early adopters gradually became a national norm. Ultimately the story does not quite restore one’s faith in politics, but it provides some moments of encouragement.