A picture of a child walking on chalk drawings and a sticky note stating, "Make universal Pre-K a thing"

Debaters advocated for universal pre-kindergarten at the Humboldt Invitational.

Could universal pre-kindergarten be the key to economic growth, improving democracy, and ending sexism?

At the Humboldt Invitational, students were invited to describe what education reform they’d most like to happen. Among requests like more kindness in schools, more foreign language classes, and more arts funding, several high school students advocated for a cause that wouldn’t directly affect their own schools: creating mandatory, universal Pre-Kindergarten.

Debaters gained exposure to this topic after the Minnesota debate coaches included it in the novice debate packet. The topic reflects recent statewide conversations. In 2015, Minnesota ranked in the top ten states for early childhood education. In the years since, Minnesota has prioritized pre-K. In 2016, Minnesota Legislature has allocated $50 million to preschool and early learning programs, a 43% increase in funding for school readiness programs and 28% increase in total Pre-K funding. Although Pre-K advocates wanted even more funding, Minnesota’s funding still puts it ahead of many states, including five which provide zero funding for Pre-K.

The packet includes three cases advocating for the US federal government to increase funding or regulation for education. In one case, students will advocate for this policy:

The United States Federal Government should amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to include funding and regulation of a universal, public pre-kindergarten education program in the United States.

The packet contains different arguments and research in favor of a universal pre-kindergarten policy. Debaters will discuss the benefits of adopting this policy: increased economic growth, reducing poverty, and reducing sexism. Students explain why these outcomes are important to society, how this policy is essential to creating these outcomes in society, and how specifically the policy would accomplish them. Read on to learn more about the questions this topic raises!

Would providing universal pre-kindergarten create economic growth?

Multiple studies demonstrate that Pre-K benefits students, improves skills development, and reduces absenteeism. Improving these educational outcomes could cause long term economic growth because better education has a strong relationship with growth. Students argue these benefits would impact both individuals and society as a whole. Economic growth can benefit standard of living in multiple ways, including making products easier to access. Students must then address questions from the opposition: is economic growth the best priority?

Would providing universal pre-kindergarten reduce poverty?

Research shows that families could save up to $10,000 a year with universal pre-K. By freeing up time and resources, pre-K allows women to work and families to thrive. Reducing poverty would improve both individual lives and the entire country by improving democracy.  Research shows that jobs and social support help people overcome barriers to democratic participation. Students will discuss the philosophical implications of a more equal democracy, and face questions from the opposition: how does this work? Would that increased economic growth actually increase poverty?

Would universal public pre-kindergarten reduce sexism?

Women face the trade-off between parenthood and career. Studies prove women are marginalized because of sexist child care expectations, like spending more time on childcare than men. Universal Pre-K will decrease sexism by giving women the freedom to pursue careers through concrete policy. Students will also analyze how sexism impacts other forms of oppression.

If you’re interested in learning more about the issues raised by this policy case, check out these local organizations:

Parents United for Public Schools

Child Care Works