Early Childhood Education Going Down the Rathole

8
811

One of the main reasons to be a Democrat is the idea that the poor need help that the government can provide effectively.  That last word is important if you are a moderate Democrat who wants to govern not fight.  And it is especially important in discussing pre-K education.

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago on Head Start and the fact that Head Start is a failure as pre-K education.  It is as inarguable as President Obama’s State of the Union Address pronouncement that the debate on the existence of climate change was over. This was established clearly and unarguably in the blue chip  bipartisan Federal government study conducted over three presidencies released in 2012. (see my earlier piece for web links to the source material).

That is why it is so distressing to wake up day after day with truly passionate pre-K advocates on the left arguing against the data.  They argue that the study actually demonstrates Head Start may have no lasting educational benefit, but we should still continue it.  They base this argument on much less rigorous studies that are nevertheless valuable in proving one point.

That Head Start is effective day care for poor children.

Anyone who has dropped a child off at day care knows that high quality adult interaction in a safe environment with healthy food is good for the child and the family.  In other words let us have the argument over whether we ought to have a national day care program for the poor.  As I point out in my earlier piece, it is not a stretch of imagination to believe quality day care helps adults deal with all the other grinding challenges of poverty and gives the child structure and nutrition that could be helpful  later life lessons.

But that is not early child education.  Early child education focuses on providing children the basis for math, reading, and other elementary school curriculum.  When it is effective it does not generate vague results decades later, but higher achievement immediately in elementary school that continues into middle school and beyond.

That is why to wake up today to Nicholas Kristof bemoaning conservatives misreading of the HHS study that demonstrated clearly that Head Start was a failure is so upsetting.  If you slog through the whole study and the following studies Kristof references, they all can be read clearly to agree.  Head Start is a failure as early childhood education preparing kids for elementary school.  Head Start probably has some success as quality daycare preparing poor kids for the rigors of life.

But why is this upsetting?  Because Kristof is a passionate, brave, and successful champion of women’s and children’s issues.  Going into brothels in Southeast Asia to save young girls deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom.  But if he and other liberal intellectuals that are currently running the Democratic Party go off on “conservatives are now expanding their war on women to children”, we will have a campaign fight and no help to kids.

We cannot allow the pre-K education debate to descend into the usual right versus left of cost vs. heartlessness.  Effective day care and effective pre-K education have the potential to produce more self-sufficient contributing members of society.  The cost savings over time in reduced drug dependency, incarceration, and the drag on the social safety net are clear.

But we are not going to push this initiative forward by misrepresenting the facts and once again alienating the House of Representatives with cries of heartlessness.  We have had five years of the President and his allies on the left bludgeoning the Republicans.  It is not working, except in winning Presidential elections.

If Democrats cannot return their party to the center, cannot offer one single concession to Republicans, cannot face the data it is poor children that will suffer.  It is time for the President to stop giving speeches and start negotiating on the facts.  It is only fair on pre-K, since he is demanding the same of the Republicans on climate change.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I feel your arguments in this post, and the previous post you referred to, fall short of the mark.

    You seem to think that the debate is centered on *what type* of pre-K services we need for poor kids: in reality the debate is centered on *whether* we need these services. Democrats would cheer your idea of improving pre-K education – and raising the taxes to fund it. Please point me to a Republican member of Congress or the Senate who has sponsored such a bill.

    Furthermore, you seem to believe that test scores are the most important outcome to target. Even ignoring educational benefits that the studies could not measure, there ARE educational benefits: Kristof (I got here by following your link in the comments section of Kristof’s Op-Ed.) also points to a study citing higher high school graduation rates. Is THIS not an educational benefit?

    More importantly, most people I think would agree that social mobility, breaking the cycle of poverty and becoming a good citizen would be more important goals than testing well at school. I notice that you do not deny there are non-educational benefit of Head Start, yet you dismiss these benefits. But that is nonsensical: the very purpose of the education system is to prepare our citizens for the world. Let’s not lose the forest for the trees!

    • Thanks for the comment and for taking the time to read both posts. It’s a tough topic to wade through.

      Head Start is by its terms in the studies I reference not about graduating high school, not being idle, etc – it’s about performance in elementary school. The 2012 bipartisan study begun under President Clinton, implemented under President Bush, and continued and reported under President Obama ended the debate – Head Start does not improve performance in elementary school after the first six months. Head Start kids fall behind after those first six months at an alarming rate.

      I did not pick the measuring standards, President Clinton along with bipartisan support in Congress picked those standards.

      It really is the equivalent of arguing climate change is debatable or creationism in public schools.

      I’m certainly in favor of day care for the poor which is what we have and seems to have some long term benefits. But, if you are talking about Pre-K (preparing kids for Common Core or other std elementary school curriculum) the poor deserve a program that works. Otherwise, this just becomes another feel good exercise while middle and upper class parents send their kids to real Pre-K.

      There are a lot of Republicans paying for and supporting Pre-K – both Texas and Oklahoma with Republican governors and legislatures are leaders in Pre-K (50% of 4 yrs olds in pre-K). I’m not sure how much of that is actually Head Start.

      Personally, I’d rather this was done at the state level or frankly the school district level. In CO school district tax votes win pretty easily at least here in Boulder, state wide lose substantially, and I think there is a lot of skepticism after No Child Left Behind failing about the Federal government’s ability to do anything but provide funding.

      Here is the link to the list of states leading on Pre-K including TX and OK. https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/2014/01/26/promoters-of-pre-k-legislation-seek-gop-support-/4900047/

  2. I agree that the STATED goals were not met – that doesn’t mean the program is worthless.

    From your article: “Three lawmakers — Republican Rep. Richard Hanna of Oneida County, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Democratic Rep. George Miller of California — introduced legislation two months ago to boost preschool education. ***But the proposal has limited Republican support.***”
    So yes, it appears Republicans are, generally, still on the wrong side of the CORRECT debate.

    I agree that supported Head Start per se is not necessarily the most effective approach, but I would also argue that Head Start is a form of preschool. (Wikipedia in all its infinite wisdom agrees with me).

    I’m trying to make the point that the debate is not about HOW to use money effectively, it’s about how MUCH money (which is kind of the opposite of the point your post is trying to make). Yes, liberals say, Head Start may not be the best program, but a) it’s NOT as ineffective as you would think from listening to conservatives, and b) if we don’t put money there, let’s at least put money towards OTHER pre-K programs (which is what you advocate). Yet conservatives say Head Start and all other New Deal programs are the worst thing since unsliced bread. (If you don’t believe me, Google ‘Head Start Failure’ and follow the first link).

    The reason I’m so passionate is that I think so many debates in this country have been dragged away from where they really need to be. So much so, that our parties can’t have any meaningful negotiation over legislation. The result is messy bills like ACA, which can only get passed if rammed down the other party’s throat.

    Just an example/analogous debate, as you mentioned (if I interpret you correctly), global warming is real yet many people still debate its existence: the debate SHOULD be centered on ‘how do we best allocate resources to combat this issue’, not ‘should we even be throwing money at this in the first place’. But do you really think that is where the debate is right now, or was in ’08-09 when the Stimulus bill was written? If that bill had had more bipartisan support (ok, it was partisan for other reasons too)https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/29/us/politics/29obama.html?hp, perhaps Republicans would changed how some of the money was allocated and instead of investing in Solyndra, we would have spent the money more wisely (e.g. on better tax incentives for all solar companies). Perhaps the fault there lies more with Democratic negotiators for not allowing Republicans to influence the legislation? I don’t know. But if the debate in the country had been more focused on the right issues, surely the bill would have been much better. I’m sure the same goes for Repub bills eschewed by the left.

    Thus I take umbrage at you assertion that “If Democrats cannot return their party to the center, cannot offer one single concession to Republicans, cannot face the data it is poor children that will suffer”. The bill mentioned in the article you forwarded mentions that the (Democratic-controlled) Senate allocated $750 M towards Pre-K grants, but the House pared that down to $250M. So much for your argument about concessions. Repub’s true colors exposed, once again.

    • Thanks for the response.

      I just feel the Liberal Left part of the party is a problem. I’m not a Republican, so I don’t focus on them but take them as they are. That means if you want to get Pre-K, Dems have to offer them something Reps want, not offer what Dems want, then scream the Reps won’t negotiate when they won’t accept what Dems want.

      Just as an alternative strategy. First, I would admit publicly that Head Start is a failure as Pre-K. Second, I would offer voucher programs for some % of Pre-K to let parents pick schools. Then, I would invite Reps to negotiate over our desire to spend 750 million more on funding.

      In other words, I’d negotiate not try and bludgeon people.

      Again, as I pointed out Texas and OK both are leading the country in kids in Pre-K. Those are Republicans. That’s what counts not whether Reps will sign on to some bill Harry Reid won’t take up.

      I’m also not convinced we need more money. We certainly need to re-engineer our existing programs and as part of that figure out why we have such poor educational outcomes while spending more pure pupil than many of the countries often referenced as beating us. Much like we spend more on healthcare.

      One thing we know from Head Start to ACA is huge federal programs with big price tags don’t necessarily equal good results.

      I cannot as a Democrat think of a single concession offered to the Republican House. Just a lot of lip service. The worst is the claim that the ACA is a Republican idea. Perhaps parts of it are related to Bob Dole in the ’90s and Mitt Romney’s Democratic legislature – that’s not where the Republican Party is now. You have to take them as they are and negotiate.

      Or Dems can swing hard left, deny the study they supported, refuse to negotiate with people they don’t like, talk about heartlessness, and no kids will get Pre-K.

      • Sure the extreme wing of any party is a problem. Democrats want to tax and spend, and there certainly needs to be balance in governing, so that taxes do not become punitive, etc… but this Congress declared that their main goal was to make sure Obama was not re-elected (see link 1 below). Publicly. How are are democrats supposed to negotiate, if the GOP doesn’t want Obama to score any political points by passing legislation?

        > I just feel the Liberal Left part of the party is a problem. I’m not a Republican, so I don’t focus on them but take
        > them as they are. That means if you want to get Pre-K, Dems have to offer them something Reps want, not
        >offer what Dems want, then scream the Reps won’t negotiate when they won’t accept what Dems want.

        First example: Social Security: Obama offered to tie inflation to Chained CPI. There’s a concession.

        > In other words, I’d negotiate not try and bludgeon people.
        The proposed $750 Million was part a BIPARTISAN package: it had a Repub co-sponsor (in the article your forwarded)

        Furthermore, it is common knowledge that Republicans don’t WANT to negotiate with Democrats:
        https://articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/27/news/la-pn-obama-mcconnell-20101027
        https://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/19-times-democrats-tried-to-negotiate-with-republicans-20131007

        >Again, as I pointed out Texas and OK both are leading the country in kids in Pre-K. Those are Republicans.
        >That’s what counts not whether Reps will sign on to some bill Harry Reid won’t take up.
        Do you know whether TX and OK have poor kids enrolled in pre-K, or just rich kids? Otherwise it’s a meaningless statistic.

        > I’m also not convinced we need more money.
        Your article cites Obama’s goal of universal pre-K costing $75 Billion. So yes I’m sure we need more than $250M if we want to have universal pre-K. (not just pre-K for people who can afford it).

        > One thing we know from Head Start to ACA is huge federal programs with big price tags don’t necessarily equal > good results.
        Not arguing with you there. I would argue that there is a lack of bipartisan support to regularly assess and repair government programs

        > I cannot as a Democrat think of a single concession offered to the Republican House. Just a lot of lip service.
        New Farm Bill just passed, slightly cuts food stamps, still gives large farms in Red moocher states tons of $$
        https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/01/the-farm-bill-proof-that-congress-is-getting-better/283446/

        > The worst is the claim that the ACA is a Republican idea.
        Milton Friedman himself proposed an individual mandate.
        According to this excellent analysis that claim is actually half-true:

        https://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2013/nov/15/ellen-qualls/aca-gop-health-care-plan-1993/
        Republican Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island was the point man. The bill he introduced, Health Equity and Access Reform Today, (yes, that spells HEART) had a list of 20 co-sponsors that was a who’s who of Republican leadership. There was Minority Leader Bob Dole, R- Kan., Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and many others. There also were two Democratic co-sponsors.
        Among other features, the Chafee bill included:
        • An individual mandate;
        • Creation of purchasing pools;
        • Standardized benefits;
        • Vouchers for the poor to buy insurance;
        • A ban on denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

        • Your right about the farm bill, but as I recall chain CPI in the aborted grand bargain he came back to Boehner and changed the deal to include a trillion dollar tax increase.

          As to the ACA being Republican you are talking about two dead Republicans from a generation ago. My pt is you have to offer today’s Republicans something of interest to them. The ACA was a 100% Democratic.

  3. Sorry but you are misguided.

    What Democrats want is full-blown Single Payer health care.

    ACA is a reasonable attempt to fix the problems in our health care delivery system using ideas that Repubs have espoused: keep insurance companies in their current roles (aka keep it a ‘market’ economy, which is BS anyway), allowing ‘choice’ in the policies and companies one can employ, and keep much of the financial burden on the patient if he/she is not super-poor.

    These policies are a far cry from fully socialized medicine where everyone can get the same treatment regardless of their wealth.

    • I favor a single payer system as a Democrat. But what you describe is not a single payer system – in France and Germany there is a base level of care which is quite good and people who have money go to private clinics for chronic illness.

      Canada is closest to “giving the same treatment regardless of their wealth” and they are moving to more of a French/German model.

      I’ve worked in all three countries and the French/German or even British model is best – a hybrid of public and successful people supporting it b/c they can get their own private care for chronic illness.

      The ACA is a 100% Democratic idea – you are talking about Bob Dole and Milton Friedman in the 1990s – those were Republicans 20 years ago. Current Republicans view Romneycare and Bob Dole as failures. If you want to govern and compromise to move the country forward you have to deal with today’s Republicans not some idealized group from 20 years ago.

      The ACA is crony capitalism of the worst sort. It cost our family our health insurance and the only exchange plan comparable is about 80% more expensive without our doctors as the network is limited to a brand new co-op. I’m not going to vote or write checks to any Democrat that denies our experience – perhaps we are the only family in America that has endured this.

      The Liberal left of the party should stay out of economics – we have the same delusional academics of the Jimmy Carter left opening the door for Republicans. The Clintons in the 1990s declared the end of big gov and lead us on a socially responsible all boats rising expansion that did more for the poor and the middle class than all these centrally planned poverty programs. The left’s role is to be the conscience on social issues, not to dictate how to pay for them and run the economy that supports them.

      And if we do not move the party back to the center we are going to see at best a Rep House and a very narrow majority in the Senate or worse a Republican Senate in 2014.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here