Monday, September 14, 2009

Early Education

"Preschool activists consider Georgia and Oklahoma model states because they have long running, fully implemented, universal preschool programs that proponents consider to be high quality…. The real-world evidence demonstrates that, at the same time [these] preschool programs have been massively expanded and their quality… has supposedly improved, the test scores of children in Oklahoma have eroded significantly compared to the national average. And while Georgia’s reading gap narrowed, its math gap stagnated or widened."  Adam Schaeffer--Cato Institute

The cash for clunkers program, where our government borrowed 3 billion dollars from China to buy 700,000 cars at an average price of $4,285 before destroying them, shows that common sense has been thrown out the government window. Our government leaders are either confused about how to be good stewards of the people's money or they willingly use government to payoff political friends. Which do you think is most likely? 

"Stimulus money" is now being thrown at preschool programs.  It does not matter that the established programs have generally failed to justify the expense. Eisenstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.     

Our granddaughter enjoys preschool at a local church. It has been a good experience for her and it has provided a daily 3 hour break for her parents and grandparents. Her class is small, her peers are well behaved and her teacher is a caring, loving, patient person. The big decline in test scores in Oklahoma and the mixed results in Georgia beg for speculation as to cause. Could it be that test scores are being pulled down to the lowest common denominator?  

On the one hand, it is clear that there are many children who need help. On the other hand, it is not clear that current "solutions" help. So far, preschool education has been another case where politicians make headlines for "doing good" only to discover that they have done harm. Borrowing money to buy cars to destroy was an act of patronage where many people were robbed of a few tax dollars (about $10 per man, woman and child) in order to payoff special interests. The issue was framed framed to suggest that destroying cars served as a stimulus for the overall economy. By this logic, massive hurricanes like Katrina are good for the economy.  Home builders in the affected area are apt to agree.   

The CARS program made great sense to those who received direct benefits, but, from the top down, the program was an act of stupidity. Requiring tax payers to borrow money to lower children's reading and math scores is more than stupid. There seems to be no shortage of stupidity in Washington. There is no end to the trade offs that politicians are willing to make. Americans have funded a decades long battle between politicians. Under both republican and democratic regimes, "good program" after "good program" has been started. "Winners have included various groups from defense contractors to teacher unions. We know that big government solutions do not work, we know that when individuals are allowed to choose that solutions that work suddenly appear.