Preschool Vouchers a Bad Idea
School Choice Weekly #22
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence called for preschool vouchers in his state of the state address this week, and the Indiana House obligingly passed a bill that would give lower-income families a voucher for their 4-year-olds in five pilot counties. Legislative leaders in the majority-Republican state are probably congratulating themselves for coming up with what looks like a conservative way to expand government entitlements, but they’re making a mistake.
Preschool programs, private or public, have proven for decades to have essentially no effect on students. The justification for them is that poor children do not get the same parenting their middle-income peers do, and thus enter school far behind in language development, which handicaps the children for the rest of their lives. But preschool has no record of fixing this--at least not for the $6,800 a year Indiana’s proposing. Further, this language gap starts at least as early as 18 months old. In other words, preschool at age 4 is far too late.
Between 1970 and 2010, nonmarital birth rates have almost tripled and marriage rates have declined between 75 and 30 percent (depending on age cohort). Here we have an obvious root to the sudden and shocking problem that so many children cannot give their first and last names or follow two-step directions by kindergarten (two of the easy-peasy “kindergarten readiness” skills apparently thousands of children are failing). From personal observations, as well as the social science, we know that these children are not looking at books because they’re looking at televisions and computers all day while their mothers text furiously; these children are not singing nursery rhymes because their mothers and their live-in boyfriends are busy canoodling, doing drugs, or fighting; and these children are not having conversations with their parents because their parents are almost incapable of using English.
Yet in the preschool debate no one discusses how to reduce the need for preschool by recreating the societal demand that fathers marry the mothers of their children, and that women refuse sex until they’ve guaranteed the children created by that decision have a real chance at a happy life.
… Any discussion of preschool must be held in its context, which means demanding an end for government programs enabling those who bear children out of wedlock and discriminating against those who marry. Conservatives should respond with a holistic approach that reduces the need for government intervention in the future, rather than accepting and thus encouraging parent and community abdication. This means talking about why so many children get to age five having never heard the ABCs.
If conservatives in Indiana and elsewhere want to better society, they should address the root of the preschool problem and uplift families. Try child tax credits and ending government discrimination against marriage. Effective programs for the poor look more like the new-mother training actress Jennifer Garner recently highlighted. And why can’t private charities and local communities handle those?
IN THIS ISSUE:
- School Choice Roundup
- Common Core Watch
- Education Today
School Choice Roundup
- OKLAHOMA: Lawmakers introduce education savings account legislation. That concept of school choice gives families control of their state education dollars, which they can divide among education opportunities.
- TENNESSEE: The state gets an “F” for school choice on the 2014 national education reform report card from advocacy group StudentsFirst. The highest-performing state on StudentsFirst’s metrics is Louisiana, with a B-. Meanwhile, the governor and state lawmakers re-open negotiations on how big to make a forthcoming vouchers bill.
- MISSOURI: Lawmakers trying to solve the problem of kids stuck in unaccredited schools are trying just about everything ... except school choice. A new report suggests essentially eliminating Kansas City’s central school district office and contracting out all the schools to local organizations.
- LOUISIANA: Taxpayers are out $770,000 in legal costs for the state to defend its voucher program against federal and union lawsuits. The lawsuits are not over, so the costs will continue to rise.
- TESTING: Jay Greene reviews this week’s blog hullabaloo over whether school choice programs should mandate state tests, and why.
Common Core Watch
- ALASKA: The state decides to jettison a national Common Core test in favor of one developed by the University of Kansas. Kansas has made the same decision, but the University of Kansas is also supplying test items for the national test both states have supposedly dropped.
- WISCONSIN: State lawmakers are introducing a number of bills to modify Common Core and limit data mining on students, and the state department of education opposes them all.
- SOUTH CAROLINA: Gov. Nikki Haley says she wants to ditch the national standards and tests this year. Here’s how she could take action towards fulfilling that promise.
- FLORIDA: The state decides to rename Common Core as the “Florida Standards.” At least five other states have tried doing the same.
- MARYLAND: Taxpayers need to cough up another $100 million to pay for Common Core test technology, says a legislative report. And all four GOP candidates for governor propose amending or ending Common Core.
- NEW MEXICO: Lawmakers have introduced new school security legislation in the wake of a shooting this week that injured two children. A bill prefiled this week would spend more on metal detectors and require schools to establish security protocols.
- VIRGINIA: A lawmaker wants colleagues to study the state’s religious education exemption, which allows families to withdraw from government involvement with their children’s education on religious grounds. Some 7,000 children are currently homeschooled under that exemption. Other homeschoolers operate under the state’s more restrictive homeschooling law.
- ADVOCACY: A new nonprofit organization styled on MoveOn.org has come to the education sphere, targeting for-profit endeavors. Integrity in Education’s first move has been making open records requests for U.S. Department of Education work with several major vendors.
- OHIO: A state probe fingers seven school districts for fudging student data such as test scores and attendance records.
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