Right now the standards for Kindergarten (to enter) are ridiculous. How many 5 year olds can read and write ("a little bit") already? And yet if a child (around here) comes on the first day without at modicum of skill in reading and writing, as well as knowing how to sit quietly, stand in line, and all the other group social rules, they are "behind."
Here's how I feel about pre-school (from my experience).
Poor kids go to head start for free. Essentially when they are too young to learn, its free babysitting under the guise of "school." Then about late 4 or 5, they start really learning.
Meanwhile, non-poor (ie waited till they could afford kids) parents were keeping their kids at home. Kindergarten starts and the Head Start kids are way ahead because all that free gov daycare (teaching them how to wait, sit and stand) and "school" puts them ahead.
Therefore the bar is raised. Teachers label the non-poor kids "behind." And so the pay for pre-school idea was born. At first it was "optional" and parents who could afford it, did it to help prepare their child, and to keep them from being labeled "behind."
Then it became practically mandatory because the standard for Kindergarten continued to rise as the non-poor pre-school attenders out performed the Head Start kids.
For example, when my oldest was 5 a lot of kids in our community didn't do any sort of pre-school. There were two types of kids...Head Start/Daycare kids and everyone else.
I put Hunter in pre-school in Delaware two days a week, for 2 1/2 hours each day, a total of 5 hours a week. It cost $150 a week, $600 a month. I did it so he wouldn't be labeled "behind." He didn't know how to stand in line yadda yadda.
I think the whole thing is ridiculous. Pre-school is not necessary, yet ask most parents and they will say something along the lines of needing it to prepare their child for kindergarten.
What the hell is Kindergarten for?
My husband didn't even go to Kindergarten, it wasn't required.
IMHO, free pre-school is a bad idea. It encourages people to have children they can't afford, because they are only responsible for the child for a few short years before they can put the kid in daycare, or "pre-school" all day 5 days a week.
It's free babysitting. And its ridiculous imo.