6-1-16 – U pre-K Foolishness

by John McClaughry

In a lengthy piece on Vermont Digger May 30, reporter Tiffany Pache blithely tells us that “Research has shown that good pre-K programs can help close the achievement gap and lower the number of children identified as needing special education later in their schooling.” There is no research that shows that about UNIVERSAL pre-K. The vaunted “research” comes from three decades-old experiments (Perry, Abecedarian, and Chicago) that focused enormous resources on desperately disadvantaged pre-K children, and even then the outcomes years later (in the case of Perry, 1965) consisted of fewer of the preschool kids in jail, etc.

UNIVERSAL pre-K takes what money is available and spreads it over 100% of the children – not the most challenged 10%. How does this “close the achievement gap”? Of course, it doesn’t, as Amy Wilkins, the leader of the Florida universal pre-school initiative, sorrowfully admitted after winning the political battle. As I wrote 11 years ago, “For those – notably liberals – concerned about closing the achievement gap between at-risk kids and all other kids, universal preschool won’t do it. It will just eat up the funding that might do it. It will however, produce many new highly paid jobs – for the teachers and administrators who will preside over a 17% expansion of Vermont’s government education empire.”

The bulk of Tiffany’s article describes the monumental – almost ludicrous – input-mandating and measuring superstructure being erected to assure “quality” universal preschooling. Years ago education reformers came out for output accountability rather than imposing a long list of input requirements (square feet of library space, progress toward advanced degrees, etc.). Now the education industry has stumbled back to the old input-mandate agenda.

Why not look at outcomes? Because the education Blob knows, from the Headstart and other evaluations, that four years after U pre-K, in the third grade, you can’t tell the U pre-K kids from the ones who stayed home or went to good old day care. Outcomes? Never mind!

Forgive me for pointing this out again, but in 2010 I wrote “There are idealistic Vermonters who really believe that universal preschool will produce these amazing returns, for the kids, for society, and for taxpayers. From a more hard-nosed perspective, it seems clear that the primary motivating force behind the universal pre-K movement is the enthusiasm of the public education industry to get its hands on another two year’s supply of our children, and send yet another large bill to taxpayers.”

In that, they have largely succeeded, and we’ll be paying them for a long time.

 – John McClaughry is the founder and vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim Bulmer June 5, 2016 at 12:43 pm

John, Once again facts be dammed. If the NEA directs the legislature to pass and fund pre-K, there will be pre-K!!! Why? MONEY, MONEY for teachers and the beauracats and to heck with the kids and the tax payers!!!!! Just one more compelling reason to defeat the super majority and elect folks with suffecient guts to put Vermonters’ interests on the front burner for a change.


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