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  • Quelling the Preschool Enthusiasm

    The Washington Post recently ran a piece by Chester Finn, asking to “slow the preschool bandwagon”, which currently consists of a $10 billion pledge by President Obama for his “zero to five” program, numerous bills in Congress to promote states’ efforts in implementing universal preschool, and a chorus of governors, unions, and preschool advocacy groups across the country pushing for an increased federal role in early education. Finn notes:

    For all its surface appeal, universal preschool is an unwise use of tax dollars…It fails to overhaul expensive but woefully ineffectual efforts such as Head Start. And it dumps 5-year-olds, ready or not, into public-school classrooms that today are unable even to make and sustain their own achievement gains, much less to capitalize on any advances these youngsters bring from preschool. Part of the energy behind universal pre-K is school systems – and teachers unions – maneuvering to expand their own mandates, revenue and membership rolls.

    Finn also notes that it is a myth that preschool programs have been educationally effective:

    On the contrary, while a few tiny, costly programs targeting very poor children have shown some lasting positive effects, the overwhelming majority of studies show that most pre-K programs have little to no educational impact (particularly on middle class kids) and/or have effects that fade within the first few years of school.

    In a new Backgrounder, Does Universal Preschool Improve Academic Achievement? Lessons from Georgia and Florida, it is shown that many of the benefits advocates contend would arise from early education programs would likely fail to manifest themselves through universal preschool. For example, Georgia and Oklahoma have experimented with universal preschool for decades, yet children in those states have failed to realize improvements in reading. After decades of universal preschool, Georgia fourth-graders have seen only a seven-point overall gain in reading and still lag behind the national average. In Oklahoma, reading scores have actually declined since the state began offering universal preschool in 1998.

    The paper also lays out problems with existing programs such as Head start, which has cost taxpayers more than $100 billion dollars since it began, yet fails to prepare its children for kindergarten – its stated purpose. In fact, a 2003 evaluation by HHS – the department that administers the program – stated:

    Head Start chil¬dren are not adequately prepared for school, and those who have been in the program still enter kindergarten lagging far behind the typical Amer¬ican child in skills needed for school readiness.

    Furthermore, the report explains how expanded federal involvement in early education is unnecessary:

    Throughout the United States, parents of young children have an abun¬dance of options for early education. These options include state-run pre-kindergarten programs, pri¬vate pre-kindergarten programs, faith-based cen¬ters, federal Head Start, special education, and family care and instruction. Currently, more than 80 percent of all four-year-old children are enrolled in some form of preschool.

    In 2008, total enrollment in state-funded pre-K education reached 1.1 million children nationally, with state-funded preschool programs available in 38 states. State funding for pre-kindergarten was $1 billion (23 percent) higher than 2007 figures. In addition, children from low-income families are eligible for the federal Head Start program, which is available in every state. Since low-income families already have access to taxpayer-subsidized pre¬school, an expanded federal role in preschool edu¬cation would represent a subsidy to middle class and wealthy households.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Quelling the Preschool Enthusiasm

    1. Spiritof76, New Hamp says:

      Public education in the US has nothing to do with raising competency of our students. It is a mythical argument. It has to do with fattening the teachers' union, their membership, wages and benefits.

      We must get rid of the Department of Education from the federal government. I wish Ronald Reagan had carried through his election promise of closing down the anti-Constitutional federal departments.

    2. Kent, VA says:

      So much for Hilary's "Village" that it takes to raise that child!

      Wasn't it Soviet Russia who spent so much time and money keeping children away from their families at home?

    3. Barb -mn says:

      "It takes a village to raise a child" is the most pathetic hint of government socialism. This village to raise a child is defeated by the population of idiots.

      The best time to raise your child with morals and value is birth to as long as you can now a days. Pre=school should be choice of parent and not government mandated. It should be a private business at a cost to the parents at the expectations of the parents. Otherwise, it's just a free daycare. They take the tots as young as 3 here.

    4. Carol , Williamsburg says:

      I am a retired teacher and school administrator.I have served one city in the N.East all of my career.I even led a strike that landed me in real prisons. I have taught all grades and have supervised many teachers.

      I have learned that money is not the solution.( Look at Washingnotn,D.C. , a place that spends $25,000. per student to educate and they don't!)Dedicated teachers with dedicated parents is a formula for student success. Often tenure rules and strong unions allow weak teachers places of refuge at the expense of the children. Mediocre teachers usually get easier classes while the hard working teachers get the neediest of students. Good teacher burnout and the exodus to'greener pastures' has been the new rule for good teachers.Cities and towns cannot afford 'bad' teachers who are protected by tenure laws.Teachers need to be at will employees.In that category I also include adminstrators, the biggest 'good ole boys' network in government.This ,too, is a hostel of mediocre teachers who got advancements beause they did not like teaching and wanted out but in the same 'ballgame'.They often got their positions by who they knew and not what they knew.What a shame is that when it's under the EDUCATION umbrella!

      In addition parents need to parent.It is not fair to expect for them to drop off their children at age 5 and pick them up at age 18 and educated.It does not work that way.It is important that teachers and parents work together to insure the child's education and sound social, physical, emotional health. Too many parents want to be their children's friends.This is not good.They have plenty of friends.What they need are parents. When the child is grown and the parent has done his/her job, then they can become friends.Parenting is a lifelong undertaking.I have seem so many needy kids who needed someone to listen to them.

      They need parents who provide them with good role models.They need good family values and a sound basis on which to build their lives.

      Often parents measure their 'love' by the goodies they provide thir children.Buying their children the newest gadget does not make a person a good parent.Letting them watch TV rather than participate in family time or reading is not good parenting. Good parents are not in jail or on drugs, or selling drugs .Good parents are people that make children proud. Good parents have family values.

      We need to train parents about good parenting.We need real courses to assist them with this situation.Parents are the first teachers so their impact is paramount to the healthy development and education of their children. In addition we need to canvas for the best teachers to teach our students. Teachers must have the best adminstrators to be the experts in teaching to assist their teachers and work with support groups to assist the students and parents in the quest for quality education.

      Children are our nation's most important asset.

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