Obama’s Proposal for New Federal Funds for Preschool Gets a Failing Grade
Can you guess when the following statement was made and by whom?
The trouble in too many of our modern schools is that the State, being controlled so specially by the few, allows cranks and experiments to go straight to the schoolroom when they have never passed through … the private house, the church, or the marketplace.
This observation easily applies to the state of education in America in 2014, but it was actually made by G.K. Chesterton in 1910 about the state of education in England.
Clearly, President Obama is no student of Chesterton. He proposed $75 billion in spending over the next 10 years to create a new federally funded preschool initiative. Consider the billions already spent on failed federal programs like Head Start, and the idea takes on a whole new dimension of awfulness.
The problem of determining how best to educate our children obviously transcends time and space. We have learned, however, big government is not best equipped to fulfill the educational needs of our children. The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke explains:
Expanding government preschool, particularly federal preschool, is wrought with problems. Any expansion of government preschool, whether state or federal, comes at the expense of private providers, who must compete with “free” government programs. When the private provision of care is pushed out of the market, that ultimately means fewer choices for families.
Moreover, taxpayers and parents already know what big government preschool looks like: the federal Head Start program. Head Start has had no long-term impact on the cognitive abilities of participating children, has failed to improve their access to health care, has failed to improve their behavior and emotional well-being, and has failed to improve the parenting practices of parents.
Clearly this new surge in federal spending, Heritage explains, would unnecessarily burden American taxpayers.
They note how expansive federal government involvement in early childhood education is already. The federal government already operates 45 early learning and child care programs, of which 12 have the explicit purpose to provide early childhood and care programs. There are also five federal tax provisions in place to ease the cost of private early childhood education and care expenditures.
Heritage analysts delve into various federal programs and expenditures including the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Head Start, and Child Care Access Means Parents in School, as well as programs in forty states and the District of Columbia. Tens of billions of dollars are spent on many of these programs.
Moreover, a large majority of mothers indicate that they prefer to stay home when their children are in their most formative years (up to age four); 80 percent of mothers who work part-time indicate that is the ideal scenario for them. Of all mothers, only 16 percent with young children prefer full-time work, a figure that declined by half from 1997 to 2007.
Considering the vast amount of taxpayer funding already channeled toward these programs and the fact that most families have already enrolled in some form of early education and care program, “demand for a large-scale new government preschool program is not evident.”
With three-quarters of four-year-old children already enrolled, and evidence that most children from low-income families already have access to taxpayer-funded or highly subsidized programs, proposals to expand government preschool would be duplicative of existing efforts at best, or, at worst, a new middle- and upper-income subsidy at a time when deficits are at an all-time high.
Ultimately, Obama’s new preschool spending would be a terrible deal for taxpayers and a huge disservice to American children in their most formative years.