By Adrienne Lu, Staff Writer

Preschool students play at Seattle’s Refugee and Immigrant Family Center. Seattle is among a number of cities and states across the country working on expanding publicly funded preschool. (AP)

From Seattle to New York, elected officials are calling for more children to attend publicly funded preschool.

President Barack Obama, lawmakers and local officials from both sides of the aisle agree on the benefits of prekindergarten — the catch is how to pay for it. That is especially true of the “high-quality” programs critical to achieving the long-term benefits touted by advocates, such as lower school dropout rates, reduced costs to the criminal justice system and higher wages.

Although definitions of “high quality” differ, such programs typically feature well-qualified teachers, developmentally appropriate instruction and positive relationships between teachers and children.

Some critics argue the benefits of preschool are overstated or fade over time, or that the programs are too expensive to justify the expense. But many lawmakers find the research showing that investing in early childhood education can yield large dividends compelling.

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