On Wednesday, a bi-partisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that promises to make President Obama’s universal preschool dream a reality.
The Strong Start for America's Children Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Reps. George Miller (D-California) and Richard Hanna (R-New York), would distribute formula funds to the states to increase full-day preschool programs. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
States that meet certain criteria – including having early-learning standards and linking preschool data to K-12 – could apply for the funds (about $27 billion over five years), which would be distributed based on the number of families earning below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
States could use the funds to expand access to full-day programs meeting certain criteria, including small class sizes, qualified teachers, competitive salaries, rigorous health and safety standards, evidence-based instruction, and evidence-based comprehensive services for children.
Another $750 million would be set aside for states that don’t meet the standards for those funds, to help them improve their programs. And a smaller amount of money would go toward things like supporting child-care training and improvements in the Child Care and Development Block Grant, as well as encouraging support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. …
“We can all agree on the importance of ensuring children have the foundation necessary to succeed in school and in life,” said Rep. John Kline (R) of Minnesota, chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, in a statement. “However, before investing in new federal early childhood initiatives, we should first examine opportunities to improve existing programs designed to help our nation’s most vulnerable children.”
That’s good advice—especially in light of oft-repeated claims that government-run early education programs produce long-term results. The reality is, any benefits from government preschool begin fading out as early as first grade, yet the costs go up every year. Why should hardworking taxpayers keep funding failure?
A better solution is to distribute funding on a per-student basis so interested parents can choose the early learning option they think is best for their toddler.