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What Is Universal Pre-K? Presidential Candidates Discuss Accessible Education At The Dem Debate

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The 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have a lot of different ideas when it comes to education and caring for the nation's students. But during the debate on Thursday night, most candidates were in agreement about universal pre-K being. Now that this is on the table, what exactly is universal pre-K and how would it affect American families?

On Thursday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was very eager to talk about her plan for universal pre-K. But, given how much limited time the candidates are given on the stage, voters at home were unable to get the full scope of this. Most plans for universal pre-K (including Warren's) involve providing high quality child care and early education to all families, regardless of their income. "In the wealthiest country on the planet, access to affordable and high-quality child care and early education should be a right, not a privilege reserved for the rich," Warren wrote in an essay penned for Medium in February.

Here's how Warren's plan for universal pre-K works: If elected, Warren plans to have the federal government partner with local providers, like school districts, faith-based organizations, and non-profits to "create a network of child care options" which include local day care centers, pre schools, and personal child caretakers. The communities would be in charge of this network, according to Warren's Medium post.

Beyond candidates, it seems universal pre-K is something many on Twitter are fans of well.

One of the best things about Warren's plan is that these pre-K teachers will be providing students with a high quality education, even with the federal government picking up a huge chunk of the cost. And if people don't like Warren's plan, they don't have to participate — universal pre-K will be available to the families that want and need it. Parents can see just how much they'll save with Warren's plan thanks to a handy tool on her website.

Although Warren's plan may be the most detailed, she isn't the only candidate in favor of universal pre-K. Former Vice President Joe Biden has also called for universal pre-K, providing quality child care and education to three and four year olds, according to Vox. But, it's a little unclear how Biden's plan works or how it will be funded.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' plan for universal pre-K helps provide an educational foundation for children ages 6 weeks old to kindergarten, through an early care and education program. He's been a long time advocate for this — in 2011, Sanders introduced a bill in Senate that, if passed, would have provided states with the opportunity to enroll young children in a full time early care program.

There is a reason why universal pre-K is so popular among voters in the 2020 presidential election — childcare is expensive. It's such a huge expense for parents that one 2018 analysis found that in 28 states, infant care cost more than a year of college tuition at an in-state, four year public university, according to Fortune.

All children deserve access to quality education, no matter how much their parents make. And whatever happens with this presidential election over the next year, it looks like universal pre-K will remain an important issue for voters.