Monday, April 07, 2003


If your school district or attached foundation wants to use tax dollars or contributions that provide tax writeoffs to start or expand a pre-kindergarten program, listen up: there's a big, fat hole of the bottom of that preschool sandbox that, financially speaking, is a lot like a rathole that will waste that money and potentially harm children.

Many Nebraska school districts have started pre-kindergarten preschools and child-care programs on school property, and most Nebraska taxpayers think that's dandy. Most taxpayers think Head Start programs, using tax dollars to presumably give disadvantaged preschoolers a boost to get them ready for school, make a lot of sense, too.

But research is showing that these programs waste money and don't help kids in particular or society in general.

Research is showing that even the highest quality, most expensive formal preschool programs have little or no effect on children's intellectual development or school performance . . . and indeed, may have negative behavioral consequences on down the road.

Prudent public school districts would cancel their preschool and child-care operations immediately, if they were really serious about doing what is best for children . . . and not just interested in bringing more money into their own coffers.

There have been several large-scale, randomized trials over the last 40 years in which high-quality preschool's impact was measured on the intellectual, academic and behavioral development of children. All have shown that children who spent a lot of time in child-care centers had significantly more behavior problems in primary school than children of similar demographics who spent most of the their preschool time in their own homes.

As for claims of intellectual or academic benefits from programs such as Head Start for low-income children, empirical research is showing that those claims are untrue. Results have been distorted by major problems with the study design models, and many of those used by the pro-child-care industry to justify additional expenditures actually lacked the quality controls of peer review. In other words, they were "spin" that public education bought as fact.

In truth, there is no difference in intellectual functioning or school performance that could be attributed to participation in out-of-home child care in the preschool years.

The disputed studies were the Abecedarian Project (Ramey & Cambell, 1984), the Houston Preschool Project (Johnson & Walker, 1987) and the Perry Preschool Project (Berrueta-Clement, Schweinhart et al., 1984).

Duhhhh! What have good mothers and fathers been TELLING the politicians and the schools about what a waste of money free child-care is? The fact is, paying strangers and outsiders to do the job of moms and dads has never worked, and is never GOING to work. What WILL work is to cut taxes so that more moms and dads can afford to work fewer hours and have more time with their kids, where they should be, providing the only real advantage that is indisputable. And what will do THAT -- cut taxes -- is to get rid of bogus school-spending programs such as pre-K, which never should have been funded in the first place.

You can read the research yourself on the Eagle Forum's Education Reporter newspaperin the article, "Do Pre-K Center Care Programs Work?" by Verne R. Bacharach, Ph. D., Alfred A. Baumeister, Ph.D., and Jaimily A. Stoecker, M.A., C.A.S.

Their conclusion: "(I)t is obviously foolish, at best, for states to develop expensive pre-K programs in anticipation of some type of payoff 15 to 20 years down the road when there is no consistent scientific evidence for the efficacy of these programs."

That means any educator who still thinks it pays to offer free "sandbox school" at taxpayer expense in direct competition with the private sector, causing apparent harm to young children who would be better off in their own homes, doesn't have the brains to . . . pound sand.

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