My kids all went to the same preschool. It was an idyllic sort of place, like an advertisement for suburban parenthood: patient teachers (all women), happy children, lots of different activities, and no schoolwork to speak of. Some of the 4-year-olds did a little reading, but nobody was forced to. I thought it was great, and my kids seemed to like it very much.
But I am not at all convinced that public pre-K is a solution to any national problem, unless you count boredom among 3-year-olds. There was once a lot of evidence that Head Start and similar programs improved later school performance, but it has not replicated very well, and most studies now find that any improvement is gone by the third grade.
So I have always been ambivalent about liberal proposals for universal pre-K. I don't really oppose it, I mean, my kids liked preschool. But I do not think it is a panacea for our educational problems, or inequality, or anything else I can think of, and I wonder if it is the best way to spend billions of dollars.
One thing I dislike about many of these proposals is that they require 3- and 4-year olds to be in school all day. My kids went for half a day, and I feel certain that was enough time for them to get whatever benefit they got out of it.
Much of this is about providing a place for kids to go while their parents work. Ok, fine. But this often comes with the idea that if this were provided then more parents would work and the economy would grow. That is an explicit goal of the Biden administration's plan:
“We want parents to be in the work force, especially mothers,” said Susan Rice, head of the Domestic Policy Council.
Me, I think “making the economy grow” is a bad choice for a general theory of existence. I would prefer the model of just giving parents the money, so they could spend it on preschool or not. If what you want is to improve kids' future school performance, cash works better than preschool:
It turns out that putting money directly into the pockets of low-income parents, as many other countries do, produces substantially larger gains in children’s school achievement per dollar of expenditure than does a year of preschool or participation in Head Start.
Americans are ambivalent about work and parenthood. Some polls show that a majority of Americans still think kids are better off if one parent is at home, and the poorer people are, the more they believe this. It's upper middle class people with "careers" who think both parents should be working. And as long as we are divided about this issue, I think the government should be empowering parents to make these decisions rather than making them for us.