Here’s a fiery editorial from today’s Wall Street Journal, charging that President Obama’s new universal preschool initiative is, er, misguided because of “the phenomenon known as ‘fade out,’ in which any tangible gains from preschool dissipate as students progress through elementary school.” The commentary cites studies from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, which found that “the costs [of preschools in Georgia]outweighed the benefits by a ratio of six to one. Nearly 80% of enrollment is ‘just a transfer of income from the government to families of four year olds’ who would have attended preschool anyway.”
Mr. Obama has set up a non-falsifiable evidentiary standard for government. The public schools fail the poor, but reforming them is hard and would upset the unions. So instead liberals propose Head Start to prepare poor kids for kindergarten. Head Start has little to show after 47 years, but rather than replacing it, the new liberal solution is to expand it to everyone.
Meanwhile, pundits who claim to be empiricists lecture Republicans to agree to all this so they don’t appear to be so hostile to government. Everyone pretends that spending more on programs that have demonstrably failed is a sign of compassion and “what works,” government expands without results, and the poor are offered only the false hope of liberal good intentions.
In case you missed it, here’s my column on NJ’s preschools at WHYY’s Newsworks.