8-5-14 – Spending On Pre-K Over College Is An Uneducated Decision

posted by Rob Roper

Now more than ever, a college education has been shown to determine an individual’s long-term prosperity. For example, a person who graduates with a four-year bachelors degree will earn an average annual salary of 63% more than someone with just a high school degree ($45.500 vs. $28,000). They are more than three times less likely to be unemployed (3.8% vs. 12.2%), and nearly four times less likely to live in poverty (5.8% vs. 21.8%). (Pew, 2/11/14)

Nevertheless, in response to the recent $31 million downgrade in Vermont’s FY15 revenue projections Governor Shumlin has proposed (among other things) a 4% budget cut for the State Colleges (VSC). This follows a decision made in the last legislative session to divert $4.5 million away from VSC to fund a new Enterprise Investment Fund that will be used to subsidize businesses, such as IBM.

Vermont does not and has not made funding higher education opportunities a priority. Even before the above-mentioned cuts Vermont was ranked near or at the bottom nationally for support of higher education, and has some of the highest tuitions. As the latest State Higher Education Executive Officers Financing Report (2013 numbers) points out, “States vary widely in the percent of educational revenue supported by net tuition, from a low of 13.0 percent in Wyoming to a high of 85.3 percent in Vermont.”

But while the Shumlin Administration has been taking the axe to higher education, they have gone all-in spending money on pre-kindergarten programs for 3-5 year olds. Proponents, including the governor, argue that for every $1 invested in pre-kindergarten we somehow save $7 or $8. But, the evidence backing up this claim and others about the effectiveness of pre-k programs is specious at best.

The $7 dollar claim comes out of the High Scope Perry Preschool Project, a clinical study that began in the mid-1960s for severely at risk children. In a nutshell, High Scope looked at only one hundred twenty three inner-city African American 3 and 4-year-olds deemed to be at risk for “retarded intellectual functioning and eventual school failure.” All of the children were of low socioeconomic status and had IQs in the range of 70 to 85.73. Only 58 of these kids actually took part in the education program, the rest were in the control group and did not. The program involved either one or two years of half-day preschool for seven months each year and periodic home visits. The teachers who ran the project were highly trained with degrees in education, early education, and special education.

This was, indeed, “high quality early education” and it did on a very small scale achieve impressive results for a few highly targeted at risk children. But High Scope does not resemble in any way, shape, or form the program that is being offered to Vermont kids, or the demographic group that participates in Vermont’s publicly funded pre-k program. To project the results of the former onto the latter is totally and inarguably dishonest.

Studies of large large-scale programs like the one Vermont is implementing, however, doe exist.

The most extensive one of these was done by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services regarding Head Start. It concluded, “There were initial positive impacts from having access to Head Start, but by the end of 3rd grade there were very few impacts…. in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children.”

So, if the end results we want to achieve are fewer people unemployed and living in poverty, getting a college degree is a far more valuable, proven asset than attending preschool. Our current leadership appears to be investing in failure and divesting from success. Hardly brilliant.

– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

The Ethan Allen Institute is a 501c3 non profit organization dedicated to promoting liberty and free market solutions for Vermont. We are supported by small, local donors such as yourself. Join the cause. Be part of the solution! JOIN HERE! Contributions are tax deductible.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robert August 9, 2014 at 1:06 pm

On January 22, 2007 I had a meeting with my state rep, Michele Kupersmith. Ms. Kupersmith would not dialogue by email, so a personal meeting was required on my part. During that meeting Ms. Kupersmith told me verbatim that “unless we (VT) had taxpayer-funded pre-K, the economy of the state would fail. Incredulous, I asked how she had arrived at that conclusion and she cited unnamed research articles from other states. She promised to provide cites to the articles at a later date but never did.

Any thinking person knows that universal pre-K is merely another liberal expansion of government and its reach into our lives and our wallets. It is your government forcing you to pay for daycare for your neighbor’s 4 year-old. And we don’t have to think too hard to figure out how parents with 4 year-olds will vote.

Ultimately the point of my post is this. The lies that are told to us in forcing more and more government and taxation upon us are monumental. Take for example Shumlin’s contention as noted in this article that every $1 spent on pre-K saves us $7 or $8. Pure fiction and nonsense, but he will say it with a straight face. For Shumlin, this beauty of this silly claim, like Kupersmith’s silly claim about Vermont’s economy failing without pre-K is that it is impossible to prove one way or the other. Like Obamacare, it cannot be proved that it does NOT work until it is implemented, and by then it’s too late.

Keep a close eye on the fables being told to you to rationalize single-payer health care.


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