Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is cutting the School Readiness and Language Development Program, a half-day pre-school program, in the face of statements by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that pre-school programs should be available to all who want them.
LAUSD has claimed it would save $16 million by cutting the program that currently serves 11,000 children at 288 elementary schools only 5,500 children at 115 schools.
Last Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 71 percent of California’s 4-year-olds do not attend preschool.
“Students have made enormous progress in recent years, thanks to the hard work of educators, families and the students themselves, but we have so much farther to go, and making high-quality preschool available to all families who want it must be part of that,” Duncan said.
LAUSD board member Bennett Kayser claimed that the program is a remedy for what he called “a Pampers-to-prison pipeline,” telling the Daily News, “We must engage our neediest students and their parents as early as possible so we can get them to kindergarten on-par with their less challenged, more affluent peers.”
The first programs that would be cut would be in elementary schools with more affluent students and more children who spoke English, but the LAUSD plans to eradicate the program entirely by the 2016-17 school year. The two residual pre-school programs in the LAUSD would not be expanded to make up for the loss.
President Obama has pushed for expanded pre-school availability for some time. In his 2013 state of the Union Address he called for Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool for every child. Last December he announced $1 billion the government and private entities would invest in preschool programs during a White House summit to promote one of his favored domestic initiatives.