BALTIMORE – Clinton resident Allisa Queen teaches Pre-K4 at a Washington D.C. charter school. She also has two little girls: Jasmyn, age
6 and Sky, age 4. So, she has given the subject of universal pre-K a lot of thought.

Jasmyn is in first grade at a Prince George’s County public school. Sky spends all day at a child development center “It’s like a big daycare center,” Queen says. She chose to put her there because she liked the center’s educational program, and because she didn’t qualify for the county’s public pre-k program.

“You have to be pretty much dirt poor to get in,” she said. “They don’t have a lot of programs if you are middle class.”

She also said that county’s current half-day program doesn’t work well for her schedule since she and her fiancé work full time.

PreKBrown

Lt. Governor Brown read to Pre-K students for Read Across America Day. (Photo Courtesy of www.governor.maryland.gov)

The idea of whether or not it’s economically feasible to make free pre-K available for all Maryland four-year-olds is just one subject in a highly
volatile gubernatorial race.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown has vowed to make it a reality for the entire state, should he win the race. Brown’s plan would call for a half-day program by 2018, and a full-day program by 2022. He says he would pay for it with gambling revenue. However, his Republican opponent, Larry Hogan, says that it might not be possible.

“I support pre-K, number one,” Hogan said in an Oct. 7 debate that aired on WJZ-TV in Baltimore. “He runs commercials saying I don’t support Pre-K and that I’m going to take $300 million out of the pockets of kids and give it to big corporations. That’s not true. What the lieutenant governor is talking about is expanding it to pay for everybody in the entire state but he doesn’t really have a plan about how to accomplish that and he’s not talking about how to pay for it and he’s not talking about making this happen until 2022. So basically, it’s a campaign promise that he’s trying to mislead voters into thinking he’s going to make happen and I’m not.”

Queen says both in her life and in the classroom, she sees the difference pre-K makes.

She says she wasn’t enrolled in a pre-K program and remembers struggling to catch up. She was an only child and stayed at home until kindergarten. “It was a rough transition,” she said.

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, left, and Republican candidate Larry Hogan hold a debate. (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)

And at work, she says that she has seen how children who have not had any form of formal education struggle in the beginning.

“They have to hit the ground running; they are more likely to be fidgety, and it’s harder for them to follow directions for doing things like standing in line,” she said. “They’re just really lost.”

It also makes the task of teaching a bit harder; they have to figure out how to get the kids who are behind up to speed while holding the interest of the kids who already know a bit more.Shannon Simpson, mother of a three-year-old and a librarian at Johns Hopkins, has her daughter enrolled in a private, all-day program in Baltimore City. She says she always knew that any child of hers would be enrolled in a pre-k program.

That’s because she loved her pre-school experience so much and because she and her husband have noted how much he struggled as a result of not attending pre-school.

“I went to preschool and I remember it as a really magical time. I’m still Facebook friends with the people I went to preschool with,” she says.

“I think that preschool should be mandatory absolutely and it should be paid for by the state. I’m sure there will be people who opt out. That’s fine, too. Everything I’ve read and everything I’ve seen shows that when states pay more money for educating kids, they spend less money later on negative things like prison.”

The lieutenant governor seems to agree.“I think that every Maryland four-year-old should have access to quality pre-k,” Brown said during the Oct. 7 debate. “If you ask a university president or a kindergarten teacher, how do we best prepare kids for college readiness or the work force
they all start with expanding pre-k. Mr. Hogan opposes the expansion of Pre-k. He says we can’t afford it. I say we can’t afford not to do it.”