The White House had an Early Education Summit a few days ago—and everything old (and discredited) is new again apparently.

The White House Blog is touting the latest study claiming a multi-dollar return for every dollar invested in early education. Government preschool boosters have been making this claim for decades (see here, here, and here). The Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey takes that claim to task point by point, and his Cato@Liberty Blog post is a must-read. The upshot, as McCluskey puts it:

When I first heard about the White House Summit on Early Education …, I worried. “I sure hope this isn’t going to be a PR stunt to cheerlead for government pre-kindergarten programs,” I thought. Then I got the announcement: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be having a Twitter chat with pop sensation Shakira in conjunction with the summit! “Oh, I was just being silly,” I said to myself, relieved that this would be a sober, objective discussion about what we do – and do not – know about the effectiveness of pre-K programs.

Okay, that’s not actually what happened. In fairness to Shakira, she does appear to have avery serious interest in children’s well-being. Unfortunately, the White House does not appear to want to have an objective discussion of early childhood education. …

I suspect the vast majority of people behind expanding preschool are well intentioned, and I encourage them to leverage as much private and philanthropic funding as they can to explore different approaches to pre-K and see what might work. But a splashy event intended to proclaim something is true for which we just don’t have good evidence doesn’t help anyone.

Let’s not mislead taxpayers…or kids.