September 9 2013

Pre-school for All Bus Tour Heading to a Town Near You

Vicki E. Alger

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is going on tour to promote the Obama Administration’s latest push: Preschool for all!

Yes, if you’re a parent of a four-year-old Duncan’s got your (no doubt soon to be mandatory) ticket to ride. If you’re just a plain old taxpayer, don’t feel left out. You’ll help pay the $75 billion tab for this latest venture.

If this most recent fill-in-the-blank for all plan sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Recall back in February 2009 Obama issued his “college for all” agenda before a joint session of Congress. The plan came until intense criticism from all sides (here, here, and here, for example). Conscripting every American four-year-old into preschool isn’t government’s job—and that’s what the Obama administration wants to change.

Replacing subsidized college student lending with direct federal lending generates big profits on paper using government math (here, here, and here). Using normal people math, however, it’s more likely taxpayers will be taken to the cleaners.

But let’s not let reality get in the way of a plucky campaign targeting preschoolers.

The feds have operated Head Start since 1965. It began as a multi-week summer catch-up program for disadvantaged preschoolers at a cost of $172 per child. That cost has increased 45 times more to nearly $8,000 per child today. All told, the program enrolls close to 1 million low income students at an annual cost of nearly $8 billion.

The government’s own official evaluations show no lasting benefits from Head Start programs for disadvantaged students, and experts say it won’t benefit middle class preschoolers, either.

Still Duncan, along with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, insists too many children don’t have access to what they consider “high quality” preschool.

High quality sure sounds like code for getting kids away from parents so they can be educated “properly” in government-run schools. Many parents prefer to educate their children at home--and that's their right.

There is no good reason to start forcing children into preschool. Neither Duncan nor the Democrats have quantified number of middle-class Americans who want, but cannot afford, preschool. Regardless of how many or few parents are in this situation, a better option would be to deposit what the feds would have spent on its failed programs into Early Education Savings Accounts (EESAs) instead. That way parents could pay for preschool programs and services they prefer. Parents would have more preschool options, and government wouldn’t get its hands on other people’s toddlers.

 

 

 

 

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