Three Takeaways from The Dear Reader’s “Early Education” Scam

Barack Obama and the children

Of all his subjects, The Dear Reader Loves the Little Children the Most. Long live the revolution!

For years, I have been telling you that when liberals want to take away our money and our freedom, they protect themselves from criticism with kiddie human shields. Their policies are always “for the children,” and if you oppose their plans, then you must not care about all the innocent, wide-eyed little moppets who will benefit from bigger government and more of your paycheck going into the federal black hole.

During Tuesday evening’s State of the Union liefest, the Dear Reader announced his desire for a new federal intervention in education.

You know, study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.

But today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.

He continued with more of the same statistics we’ve come to expect from liberals promoting their “investments” (read money thrown down various “social welfare” ratholes). (“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”) In other words, pulled from where the sun don’t shine, but very persuasive to the typical Obama supporter, who couldn’t pass statistics or economics at gun point. Oh wait …can I still use that phrase? Well, whatever. You get the point.

Stripping away the touchy-feeley yip yap, I see three important takeaways from this proposal:

(1) There is no constituency more important to Barack Obama and the democrats than the public employee, especially teachers, unions. This plan presents another opportunity to swell the ranks of dues paying members. From The Wall Street Journal:

States would have to meet certain conditions, such as hiring “well-trained teachers” who are paid comparably to K-12 teachers, adopting rigorous curricula, keeping student-teacher ratios low (emphasis mine) and assessing youngsters.

(2) This is another income-redistribution program to redress the “unfairness” of evil, racist Amerika. Also from The Wall Street Journal:

 Though the effort has been billed by the administration as “preschool for all,” including the middle class, the plan targets disadvantaged children. The program would provide matching funds—although it isn’t clear whether it would be dollar-for-dollar—to states that expand preschool slots for families with incomes of twice the federal poverty level or less. (emphasis mine) States could get extra funds to expand preschool offerings to middle-class families.

 

(3) The never-ending Obama campaign, which continues because it is not a traditional political campaign, but rather a campaign against the Constitution and the country we grew up in, continues to excel at “optics,” using human props and contrived situations to appeal to the emotions of their low-info supporters. In the case of this early-education initiative, the Demagogue-in-Chief needed wallpaper for a campaign appearance, so parents and teachers at a Decatur, GA pre-school had to scramble to provide it. From The Daily Caller:

President Barack Obama visited a pre-kindergarten class on Thursday during a student holiday, prompting school officials to request that parents bring their children back to school in order to fill seats.

Students at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Georgia were expecting to spend winter break at their homes this week, according to WSB radio in Atlanta.

“It was very surprising. The timing presented a rather unique challenge,” admitted Courtney Burnett, the legislative liaison at Decatur Schools. “Our school system is on winter break right now.”

Parents dutifully fetched their children so that the president didn’t have to tour empty classrooms.

Finally, lost in all the hopey, changey feel-goodism of this “early education” proposal is the fact that there is very little evidence that these sort of programs actually work. We do have evidence that Head Start does not. Consider this report from Russ Whitehurst of the liberal Brookings Institution, describing the Department of Health and Human Services’ study of Head Start.

HHS released the Head Start Impact Study Final Report last week. There are several remarkable things about it:

 

(1) The study demonstrated that children’s attendance in Head Start has no demonstrable impact on their academic, socio-emotional, or health status at the end of first grade. That’s right. If you were a mother who lost the lottery, couldn’t get your child into Head Start, and had to care for her at home, she was no worse off at the end of first grade than she would have been had she gotten into Head Start. That isn’t to say that she was well off. In the critical area of vocabulary, 3-year-olds entered the study at the 29th percentile in terms of national norms and finished first grade at the 24th percentile whether or not they attended Head Start. That is not good.

 

(2) The study went virtually unnoticed. You can’t find anything about it in the Washington Post or the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any other media outlet that serves the general public. The Post has 11 reporters covering education. Why isn’t a report on the effectiveness of the nation’s largest federally administered education program, one that serves thousands of needy children within the Post’s metro area, deemed worthy of newsprint? Is Head Start so sacrosanct that bad news about it is to be ignored?

 

(3) The report of the study was inexcusably delayed. Data collection for the first grade follow-up was completed in the spring of 2006. Best practice in federal agencies would have seen a report released 12-18 months later. In fact, a draft report was provided to government officials in 2008 but wheels turned for long periods afterwards as the contractors were pushed to try different analytic techniques in the hope that something positive for Head Start could be found. Residuals of that effort are apparent in the released report, wherein findings are reported as suggestive or moderate that do not meet well accepted standards for statistical significance. The inexcusable delays continue as a report on a follow-up at the end of third grade, on which data collection ended in the spring of 2008, is no where in sight.

So, to summarize, the federal government has determined that Head Start has very little benefit, but that fact was suppressed by the Lame Stream Media.

To quote the One, let me be clear. No one disputes the benefits of early learning. I will never forget my parents teaching me to read before I went to school, or the time spent doing projects with my grandmother as a young child. There is no question that I benefitted enormously from these experiences. I am willing to concede that locally-run early education programs also produce demonstrable benefits. Obama’s proposal has nothing to do with those benefits. Instead, it’s all about paying off his public employee union buddies, funneling more cash indirectly into democrat coffers, and redistributing income.