October 1, 2001

Increase in Calls for Mandatory Preschool

Home School Legal Defense Association has noticed a recent rise, at both the local and state level, in the calls for universal preschool. For example, Sandra Feldman, the president of the million member American Federation of Teachers (AFT) proposed a $41 billion program to "help shrink the achievement gap between disadvantaged and better-off children" through universal preschool starting at age 3. In the District of Columbia, legislation was recently introduced that would actually lower compulsory attendance to age 3.

"Passing this law would be a mistake," said HSLDA's National Center for Home Education Director Tom Washburne. "Home schooled children have shown that what really counts is parental involvement in the lives of children, not compulsory attendance law aimed at toddlers. Removing three year olds from their parents bucks thousands of years of wisdom concerning what it takes to raise up children well. Parents, not government, are in the best position to determine when and how their children should begin school."

The National Center continues to oppose the expansion of compulsory attendance laws. In early September, we sent a letter to members of Congress influential on District of Columbia issues. Among other things, the letter pointed out that:

  • If the legislation passes, Washington, DC, will have the lowest compulsory attendance age in the country.

  • Military and other government-assigned families will be subject to comply with this compulsory attendance age, one that is inconsistent with attendance laws across the rest of America.

  • For the last three years, DC students have had the worst scores in the nation on the ACT, an important college admission test. Requiring children to spend two additional years in such a system is unlikely to improve academic success.

The letter reminds members that Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress, not the District of Columbia Council, control over governing the district. It closes by urging the members to use their influence in discouraging the passage of the DC bill.