HillaryCare for Tots

John A. Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Tue May 29 00:04:26 MDT 2007


>HillaryCare for Tots
>By Nicole Gelinas
>Monday, May 28, 2007
>
>Last week, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton 
>unveiled one of the first big domestic proposals 
>of the 2008 presidential campaign: a $10 billion 
>plan for federally funded “universal 
>pre-kindergarten.” The proposal likely pleases 
>the national teachers’ unions, eager to capture 
>the massive public money becoming available to 
>serve the under-five set. Just as bad, the plan 
>assumes that government money can improve 
>people’s lives­to a much greater degree than history has shown.
>
>Under Clinton’s program, the federal government 
>would match individual states’ funding for 
>voluntary pre-K for four-year-olds, with a $10 
>billion annual cap on federal dollars by the end 
>of the first five years. To be eligible for the 
>matching funds, states would have to hire 
>teachers with bachelor’s degrees that include 
>training in early-childhood development, 
>maintain low student-teacher ratios, and use some standard curricula.
>
>The plan resembles the Great Society’s Medicaid 
>program, enacted four decades ago as a 
>federal-state partnership to provide health care 
>for the poor. Just as in Medicaid, individual 
>states would decide how to structure 
>early-childhood programs within those few basic 
>rules, and would be responsible for a big part 
>of the bill. Unlike with Medicaid, states could 
>choose not to participate, but it would be 
>awfully hard for them to refuse. Politically, 
>what governor can oppose more education for cute 
>kids, especially when a state’s governor and 
>legislature know that they’ll get “credit” for 
>every dollar of such voter-pleasing spending, 
>while having to come up with only 50 cents of it themselves?
>
>Even with the matching funds, though, the 
>federal requirements likely will prove expensive 
>for the states. For one thing, mandating low 
>student-teacher ratios means hiring more 
>teachers. And in places like New York, New 
>Jersey, and California, the union-friendly 
>states that would embrace the program early on, 
>the proposal will almost surely create a huge 
>new demand for expensive teachers from the ranks 
>of the politically powerful unions.
>
>To be sure, Clinton’s plan doesn’t require 
>states to hire unionized teachers. The nation’s 
>fledgling charter schools, which are usually 
>non-union, could add pre-kindergarten classes to 
>their existing elementary schools with the 
>federal matching funds. But innovative, 
>independent charter schools are still a tiny 
>fraction of public education. Unless they want 
>to build freestanding schools for 
>four-year-olds, most states will send the vast 
>majority of their pre-K classes to unionized 
>elementary schools, adding hundreds of thousands 
>of highly paid union jobs to state budgets.
>
>And don’t think that the teachers’ unions want 
>to stop at four-year-olds. In New York earlier 
>this month, after heavy lobbying by the local 
>United Federation of Teachers, Governor Eliot 
>Spitzer signed an executive order that will 
>allow 50,000 day-care workers who care for 
>toddlers in their own homes to unionize and 
>negotiate for higher pay and benefits.
>
>It’s a slippery slope from encouraging 
>bachelor’s degrees and federally approved 
>curricula to teach four-year-olds to requiring 
>bachelor’s degrees and federally approved 
>curricula to watch two-year-olds. And Clinton 
>has already started down it: her proposal notes 
>ambitiously that “states [could] serve younger 
>children [with federal money] once they have 
>provided pre-K to all four year olds who need it.”
>
>Supporters of universal pre-K and other 
>early-childhood programs often point to the 
>growing evidence that young children develop 
>cognitive skills well before school age. Indeed, 
>study after study has shown that by the time 
>they get to kindergarten, kids from families 
>that don’t provide education at home can’t catch 
>up with peers whose parents, say, read a book to them every day from infancy.
>
>One of the most comprehensive studies done to 
>date, by Georgia State University, found that a 
>sample of below-average pre-schoolers enrolled 
>in Georgia’s universal pre-K program made up 
>their deficits and were average or above average 
>on most measurements by the end of kindergarten 
>two years later. But the racial gap between 
>white and black students actually became more 
>pronounced after pre-K and kindergarten. Whether 
>a student “lived with both parents continuously 
>since birth” made a huge difference in achievement.
>
>It’s only logical that little kids with such 
>barren educational backgrounds that they can’t 
>even do kindergarten work­mostly just coloring, 
>identifying letters and shapes, and exhibiting a 
>healthy vocabulary­will swiftly gain at least 
>basic cognitive and social skills once they 
>finally get the chance to soak them up. It 
>doesn’t follow, however, that a year of 
>pre-school can make up for the next 12 years of 
>poor education and poor family support. A few 
>longer-term studies exist, but they’re often too 
>small to be useful, or suffer from methodological problems.
>
>Worse, for the government to follow the science 
>of cognitive development to its logical 
>conclusion, the feds would need to mandate that 
>local schools force single, poor mothers to 
>enroll their kids at birth in government-funded, 
>full-day education programs, staffed by highly 
>trained professionals. This would ensure that 
>the kids are away from their dysfunctional 
>families and neighborhoods and in a 
>comparatively decent learning environment for as much time as possible.
>
>Thankfully, this idea still sounds ridiculous to 
>most people­though maybe less so every year. And 
>there’s no guarantee that it would work anyway, 
>if the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on 
>anti-poverty programs over the past 40 years are any indication.
>
>Clinton’s plan is an equally absurd 
>half-measure, assuming, as it does, that even 
>more billions in state and federal taxpayer 
>money­much of it funneled through teachers’ 
>unions into schools that already do a crummy job 
>of educating disadvantaged kids ages five 
>through 18­can bridge immense familial and 
>cultural chasms if they just start at age four instead.
>
>This article originally appeared in 
><http://www.city-journal.com>The City Journal.

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