With Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better initiative hitting a wall in the Senate, President Joe Biden has suggested that components of the bill be advanced separately. One of these components is a plan for government-funded universal pre-K.
The plan would fund schooling for some 6 million children ages 3 and 4. Federal funds would be provided for six years, the first three funded 100 percent by the federal government, with the share provided by states increasing up to 40 percent by year six.
The total cost estimate generated by the bill’s sponsors is $200 billion. But like the entire Build Back Better plan, the cost estimate is far below reality. Who really believes the plan will die after six years? American Enterprise Institute analysts suggest a more realistic price tag is around $500 billion.
We’re talking here about adding hundreds of billions of dollars of new pre-K education infrastructure, requiring, by some estimates, around 50,000 new teachers.
It is an indication of either the quality or the honesty of thought going on that Democrats want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a new, basically untested concept to which, on paper, the federal government is only committed for six years.
What exactly are the merits of the idea?
Research indeed shows benefits from a well-structured pre-K program. Most likely to benefit are poor children. But providing pre-K investment and then sending these children off to the broken K-12 public schools in the same neighborhoods is ridiculous.
Let’s turn to Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist James Heckman.
When asked about universal pre-K in a recent interview, Heckman’s reply was: “I have never supported universal pre-school. … Public preschool programs can potentially compensate for the home environments of disadvantaged children. No public preschool program can provide the environments and the parental love and care of a functioning family and the lifetime benefits that ensue.”
Heckman observes: “The family is the source of life and growth. Families build values, encourage (or discourage) their children in school and out. Families — far more than schools — create or inhibit life opportunities. … Schools can only partially compensate for the damage done to the children by dysfunctional families.”
Even if we accept Heckman’s observations, we’re still left with big questions.
What is our understanding of the family now and what is deemed dysfunctional? Woke culture condemns any defense of traditional values and therefore our traditional idea of the family.
Recently, Pew Research surveyed Americans on the displacement of the traditional family by “alternative lifestyles” such as cohabitation, single-parent households and same-sex marriage. When asked about these alternatives to the traditional family in 2010, 32 percent said they made “no difference.” By 2019, 45 percent said they made no difference.
The one option for 3- and 4-year-olds to receive education in a traditional framework is church schools. But this one option is not available through the Democratic pre-K mega-funding program. Democrats are only interested in options that are basically extensions of public schools.
Facilities that are used primarily for “sectarian instruction or religious worship” don’t qualify, per Biden. This despite government data indicating about one-quarter of parents who use child care send their child to a church-related facility.
The bottom line is that what Democrats really want, this time in the name of child care, is the government-funded progressive takeover of our lives.
The multibillion-dollar universal pre-K program should meet the same fate as the Build Back Better legislation of which it was a part. It should be stopped.
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