NPR on universal preschool in France

In case you missed it, NPR had a great piece on today's Morning Edition about universal preschool in France. Here's the audio link. As the Obama administration looks to promote preschool for every child in the U.S., it's instructive to hear how other countries in Europe have managed to do it.

France has a longstanding commitment to preschool for every child that, according to this report, has its roots in the founding principles of the republic, "embodying both equal treatment for all and the emancipation of women." Today 100% of 3- and 4-year olds in France attend "ecole maternale," their term for preschool, which aims to impart social and emotional skills more than than reading or math--all in the name of preparing all children to be be productive students and citizens. 

Meanwhile, here in D.C., we have a mandate for universal preschool for all 3-and 4-year-olds by 2014 in the PreK Enhancement and Expansion Act, passed in 2008. But are sorely lacking in capacity to meet that mandate. As this report points out, across the the U.S., in cities other than D.C., access to high-quality preschool is mostly a problem for middle-income families with two working parents who don't qualify for free preK. Low-income families have decent options for free preschool and programs such as Headstart, and higher income families may be able to afford expensive private programs. 

What do you think?