by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
From the 2013 State of the Union Address,
Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. That’s something we should be able to do.
Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.
Note that President Obama identified state-run programs in Georgia and Oklahoma. The reason is simple. A rigorous study of Head Start (released the Friday before Christmas) showed that benefits from the program did not last beyond third grade. So, the federal government is already “working with states” through the Head Start program, but there is little to show for it.
Of course, if Obama wants to give “high-quality preschool available to every single child in America,” then surely his rich pals will appreciate shifting the cost of their child’s preschool to taxpayers.