A Constitutional Right to Preschool?
James E. Ryan
Harvard University - Graduate School of Education
September 15, 2004
Currently, about twenty-five percent of all children ages three through five, who are not in kindergarten, attend a publicly-funded preschool. A bit more than twenty-five percent attend a private preschool. As for the public programs, the federal government traditionally played the leading role in providing access to preschool, but that is beginning to change. Forty states and the District of Columbia currently sponsor pre-school programs, up from ten in 1980. Both federal and state programs typically target poor children, but even then only serve a limited portion of the eligible group. As a result, millions of three- and four-year old children do not attend preschool, many because they have no access to public programs and cannot afford private ones.
This article examines whether access to publicly-funded preschool ought to be expanded and, if so, whether courts - state or federal - should play a role in that expansion.
Keywords: constitututional, preschool, education
JEL Classification: 120, 128
Date posted: October 14, 2004