Universal Pre-K proposal overrated

Star Parker
Conservative Opinion

Star Parker

Founder & President, Center for Urban Renewal and Education
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President Biden’s plan for universal pre-k schooling is, quite frankly, a bad idea. It comes with little to no proof that it will have a positive impact on our children and will cost way more than it’s proponents think.

The government-funded universal pre-k plan originally appeared in the Democrats’ multi-trillion dollar Build Back Better Act. Since that legislation died, the president is trying to advance pieces of it separately, including this pre-k proposal. The idea is that federal funds would cover six years of school with the federal government paying 100% for the first three years and states picking up 40% by year six. The bill’s sponsors say it will cost about $200 billion, but analysts at the American Enterprise Institute say a more realistic price tag is $500 billion.

We’re talking here about adding hundreds of billions of dollars of new pre-k education infrastructure, requiring, by some estimations, more than 50,000 new teachers, plus classrooms, and all other components of setting up a whole nationwide education structure. 

And what exactly are the merits of this idea of universal pre-k? Yes, there is some research out there that shows a few benefits from a well-structured pre-k program. But absent are solid conclusions of lasting benefits. And most of the supposed benefits are among low income, disadvantaged children because the programs are giving them structure and discipline that they are not getting at home. But providing pre-k investment and then sending these same children off to the broken k-12 public schools in these same neighborhoods is ridiculous.

Nobel Prize winner James Heckman, a University of Chicago economist, is a highly regarded expert on the importance of early child development. He is not giving universal pre-k his endorsement.

“I have never supported universal pre-school…. public preschool programs can potentially compensate for the home environments of disadvantaged children,” he said in a recent interview, adding, “No public preschool program can provide the environments and parental love and care of a functioning family and the lifetime benefits that ensue.”

One option for early childhood education is church school. Already, 25% of parents send their 3- and 4-year-old children to church-related childcare facilities, but the Biden plan would not cover it.

Democrats are just interested in options that are basically extensions of public schools… all of the indoctrination included.

The bottom line is that, once again, what Democrats really want, this time in the name of childcare, is government-funded progressive takeover of our entire lives.

So, in my opinion, the multi-billion-dollar Democrat universal pre-k proposal should meet the same fate as the Build Back Better Act of which it was a part. It should be stopped.

With Democrats’ multi-trillion dollar Build Back Better Act hitting a wall in the U.S. Senate, President Biden has now suggested that components of the bill be advanced separately. 

One of these components is a plan for government funded universal pre-k schooling. Federal funds would be provided for six years, the first three funded 100% by the federal government, with the share provided by the states increasing up to 40% by year six.

The estimated costs off this universal pre-k takeover generated in this bill is about $200 billion, according to the sponsors. But like the entire Build Back Better Act, the cost estimate is far below reality. American Enterprise Institute analysts suggest a more realistic price tag should be around $500 billion.

We’re talking here about adding hundreds of billions of dollars of new pre-k education infrastructure, requiring, by some estimations, more than 50,000 new teachers, plus classrooms, and all other components of setting up a whole nationwide education structure. 

And what exactly are the merits of this idea of universal pre-k? Yes, there is some research out there that shows a few benefits from a well-structured pre-k program. But absent are solid conclusions of lasting benefits. And most of the supposed benefits are among low income, disadvantaged children because the programs are giving them structure and discipline that they are not getting at home. But providing pre-k investment and then sending these same children off to the broken k-12 public schools in these same neighborhoods is ridiculous.

Let’s turn for a moment to Nobel Prize winning University of Chicago economist, James Heckman. He’s a highly regarded expert on the importance of early child development.

When asked about universal pre-K in a recent interview, his reply was, “I have never supported universal pre-school…. public preschool programs can potentially compensate for the home environments of disadvantaged children.”

(But) “No public preschool program can provide the environments and parental love and care of a functioning family and the lifetime benefits that ensue.”

Heckman went on to observe that, “The family is the source of life and growth. 

“Families build values, encourage (or discourage) their children in and out of school.” 

“Families – far more than likely to – create or inhibit life opportunities than schools…. 

“Schools can only partially compensate for the damage done to children by dysfunctional families.”

And even if we accept Heckman’s observations, we’re still left with some big questions.

What is our understanding now of family and what is deemed to be dysfunctional?  

These are questions we have to ask ourselves because woke culture will condemn any defense of traditional values and therefore any traditional idea of family.

If our goal as society is to help the 3- and 4-year-olds growing up in dysfunctional families have a fighting chance to have a successful life, then one option to receive education in a traditional framework is church schools.

But this is one option that, uh-uh, not going to be available through the Democrat universal pre-k mega funding proposal. 

Democrats are just interested in options that are basically extensions of public schools… all of the indoctrination included.

Facilities that are used primarily for “sectarian instruction or religious worship” don’t qualify, per President Biden. This despite government data indicating that a quarter of parents currently send their 3–4-year-old children to church, are sending them to church related childcare facilities. Right now, a quarter of these are already choosing these environments that are church related that will no longer be qualified under this universal pre-k proposal.

The bottom line is that, once again, what Democrats really want, this time in the name of childcare, is government-funded progressive takeover of our entire lives.

So, in my opinion, the multi-billion-dollar Democrat universal pre-k proposal should meet the same fate as the Build Back Better Act of which it was a part.  It should be stopped.


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