We didn't know it was that bad: Unearthing parent perspectives on Universal Pre-K policy

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Early childhood policy, Families, Workforce compensation, Universal Pre-K, Teacher turnover


Families are the ultimate recipients of the effects of policy, but seldom get a seat at the policymaking table. This study investigated how parents perceive the impacts of unequal teacher compensation policies on New York City’s (NYC) Universal Pre-K (UPK) expansion. Utilizing Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological systems theory and Schneider and Ingram’s (1993) theory of social construction and policy design to create a rich conceptual framework, this qualitative study analyzed parents' voices through document and social media discourse analysis expanding from 2014 to 2021, and semi-structured interviews (n=15). Participants reflected the demographic diversity found in NYC, the largest school system in the country. The data analysis occurred in three sequential stages: (a) content analysis of documents, (b) thematic analysis of interview data, and (c) compilation of findings from these analyses to draw comprehensive conclusions. Findings revealed that while parents had limited engagement with policy, they were able to articulate the detrimental effects of compensation policies—particularly the effect of teacher turnover on their daily lives—with a disproportional effect on parents of racially minoritized backgrounds or living in low-income neighborhoods. The rich interviews unearthed the dissonance between the policy’s intent and its effect on perpetuating racial and socio-economic biases. Recommendations for advocacy and engagement are provided.


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How to Cite

Mavrides Calderon, M. (2024). We didn’t know it was that bad: Unearthing parent perspectives on Universal Pre-K policy. Journal of Childhood, Education & Society, 5(1), 104–119. https://doi.org/10.37291/2717638X.202451336