As Eric Boehm notes in Reason online, pre-K programs give politicians the warm fuzzies. Indeed, in the event that she wins the presidency tomorrow, Hillary Clinton is all set to go all in on spending for these programs. One drawback: they appear to do very little for kids.

Boehm calls our attention to a new report in the Behavioral Science and Policy Journal entitled "Evidence for the Benefits of State Prekindergarten Programs: Myth and Misrepresentation," by Vanderbilt researchers Dale C. Farran and Mark W. Lipsey. It explores the Pre-K for All program launched and funded to the tune of $1.5 billion over five years. It made pre-K statewide, and it should be noted that other states have launched similar programs.

The researchers say that these programs are being funded, even though we don't know if they are successful (and, indeed, may even lack criteria for judging their success or failure). My colleague Carrie Lukas has previously reported on a study indicating that the Head Start program actually has very little impact on the kids it purports to serve.

Boehm writes:

In the rush to create new programs and expand old ones, Farran and Lipsey say, states are misallocating money and not checking for results.

"Viewed with a critical eye, the currently available research raises real questions about whether most state pre-K programs do anything more than boost 4-year-olds' academic cognitive skills to where they would be by the end of kindergarten anyway," Farran and Lipsey conclude. "Children are not well served by a perpetuation of magical thinking about the likelihood of profound effects resulting from poorly defined, state-run pre-K programs."

You can think about it like this: federal and state governments are spending $34 billion annually on take-out pizza, based on a study of take-out pizza in Oklahoma that concluded take-out pizza in Oklahoma was delicious. These governments don't know if the pizza everywhere else is any good. They don't know whether they would be better off spending their money on Thai food instead. They don't even know how to decide if the pizza they are getting is any good, but they're willing to pay more for it.

Hillary Clinton is promising to join the party. The Democratic presidential nominee says she would double the number of children enrolled in Head Start and would expand other federally-subsidized programs with the goal of giving all four-year olds access to pre-K. Clinton is no stranger to the issue: in the 1990s, she pushed for an expansion of Head Start that passed during her husband's time in office.

As with many other topics, Donald Trump's view on early childhood education is difficult to ascertain. He's a firm believer in local control over schooling decisions—"I'm a tremendous believer in education. But education has to be at a local level," he bellows in one campaign ad—and he has outlined a plan to allow parents to deduct the costs of child care, but it's not clear how he views the government's role in providing pre-K (the Republican platform adopted in Cleveland opposes public funding for pre-K on the grounds that it's a government intrusion into the parent-child relationship).

Regardless of who wins the election, federal and state officials should be asking if it make sense to keep funding pre-K when even the federal government admits it can't find much evidence of success in decades of trying?

I do not want to pay high taxes to give politicians the warm fuzzies.

I also recognize that education is essential, often the first step to escaping poverty.

So here's an idea: Let's quit funding programs that don't help kids and allow the expansion of charter schools, which do help kids.