Universal Preschool Wastes Money, Imperils the Good Society

From our friends at the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy in Wichita, Kansas.

Universal Preschool Wastes Money, Imperils the Good Society
Short-term benefits, politicization of childhood await public funding

(WICHITA) – If K-12 schools fail to graduate one in four students on time, does it make much sense to enroll children in public programs at an even younger age? That’s one problem with proposals for universal, taxpayer-funded preschool, as outlined by a new report issued by the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy. Read “Plato’s Republic on the Plains: Should Kansas Really Embrace State-Financed Early Childhood Education?” at www.flinthills.org.

“On the one hand, you’ve got to applaud the desire to ‘do something’ to improve education,” says John R. LaPlante, Education Policy Fellow of the Kansas-based think tank. “But what we see is that the longer children stay in school, the worse off they do. We should fix the K-12 system through competition and expanded school choice rather than enroll infants and toddlers in public programs that are often run through those same schools.”

The study reviews the weaknesses of reports used to justify universal preschool programs, including methodological shortcomings. The benefits seen in preschool programs tend to be focused in lower-income children and fade out in a short time-hardly a prescription for a universal program.

In addition to experimental and economic problems, universal preschool poses a moral question: Do children belong to parents or do they belong to society and the state? Plato called for some children to be reared not by parents but by the collective. The impulse to use government to fix children’s lives for the societal good may have at first a moral foundation, but it violates foundational truths about American society and the meaning of limited government.

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