PLUNKETT: Claims by Pre-K proponents use junk studies to tap into federal money. 


BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett

The Columbus Dispatch Editorial Board in their infinite wisdom urge legislators to make a real investment in our children’s futures by providing access to Pre-K to every child in our state.”

These stalwarts of research write that “if Mississippi is serious about improving its educational system, it makes perfect sense to start at the very beginning of the educational process with programs that have proven to be successful.”

Except, well, they haven’t proven to be successful at all. 

Furthermore, many studies show behavioral problems of children are heightened by being taken away from the important social structure of the family at such a formative age, a problem that often leads to a negative impact on their education and social skills years later. 

Despite this, the Dispatch Editorial Board writes:

Several state studies have also documented significant cognitive gains for children who receive Pre-K. In Georgia, children who attended the state’s universal program overcame the achievement gap they faced prior to enrolling in Pre-K by the time they finished kindergarten. Children who received Pre-K equaled or exceeded national norms in eight of nine standardized assessments by the end of their kindergarten year.  

This is true. Except they neglect to mention that by third grade, the cognitive gains seen at the end of kindergarten are gone, no longer measurably improved. In other words the investment in “Pre-K for all” ends up making kids no better off in third grade than they would have been without it. This little tidbit, of course, did not make it into the Dispatch opinion. 

In fact, they attempt to suggest the connection where it doesn’t exist:

A year after the legislature passed Gov. Bryant’s plan to require all Mississippi third-graders to be held back if they can’t read at grade level, the numbers are depressing. By some estimates, as many as 25 percent of our third-graders — more than 6,000 kids — will be held back this year, although there are efforts to give those students a one-year “grace period” to close the reading gap. 
As discouraging as those numbers are, we should not really be all that surprised because one of the best tools for ensuring the success of our younger students is available to only half of the state’s children. 

Education bureaucrats and their dupes in the media are playing bait and switch with the data, discussing out of hand results on 50-year old studies of less than 100 kids from Michigan, and mixing the findings in with modern day efforts in Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee. 

The real evidence from the more broad-based, randomized studies shows, at best, statistically insignificant results; at worst, the creation of social and behavioral problems by government intervention in the cognitive development of children. One of these is the most indepth study ever conducted on Head Start released in 2013. 

The 15-year long Head Start Impact Study released by HHS provided definitive evidence that the federal government’s 48-year experiment with Head Start has failed children and left taxpayers a tab of more than $180 billion. 

Which gets to the real reason to double down on this failure.

The real reason for this sales pitch has nothing to do with education and everything to do with federal money. The Obama Administration is looking to give away billions in grants and repetitive early childhood education program money to states willing to expand their programs, setting yet another hook in states to become more dependent on federal dollars and federal control.

Mississippians only need to look around at the decimation of our communities to see the outcome this dependence has brought upon us. Any legislator who turns a blind eye to it and continues to vote to hand control over to the Feds and those here who make big bucks suckling at the federal teat, doesn’t have our state, or what’s in the best interest of our children in mind. 

About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett


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