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Early Start

Preschool Politics in the United States

Andrew Karch

Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Imprint: University of Michigan Press
Published: 01/2014
Pages: 288
Subject: Education - Preschool & Kindergarten, Political Science - Public Policy/Cultural Policy, Education - Educational Policy & Reform/General
Print ISBN: 9780472035885
eBook ISBN: 9780472900787


In the United States, preschool education is characterized by the dominance of a variegated private sector and patchy, uncoordinated oversight of the public sector. Tracing the history of the American debate over preschool education, Andrew Karch argues that the current state of decentralization and fragmentation is the consequence of a chain of reactions and counterreactions to policy decisions dating from the late 1960s and early 1970s, when preschool advocates did not achieve their vision for a comprehensive national program but did manage to foster initiatives at both the state and national levels. Over time, beneficiaries of these initiatives and officials with jurisdiction over preschool education have become ardent defenders of the status quo. Today, advocates of greater government involvement must take on a diverse and entrenched set of constituencies resistant to policy change.

In his close analysis of the politics of preschool education, Karch demonstrates how to apply the concepts of policy feedback, critical junctures, and venue shopping to the study of social policy.


"Andrew Karch's Early Start is a significant study on the politics of early childhood policy in America. Combining historical institutional analysis with an analysis of social movement actors' political strategies, Karch's book carefully traces how key political events, combined with federal-state-stakeholder dynamics, led to fragmentation within the policy movement and in the resulting state and federal policies. This book will be of interest to political science scholars of federalism and social movement politics, as well as early childhood scholars and practitioners."
—Linda White, University of Toronto