Tuesday, March 17, 2009

For early-childhood choices

Don Soifer of the Lexington Institute testified today before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor. Key grafs:
Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman has been among the most prolific and persuasive advocates for the benefits of investing in quality interventions for financially disadvantaged, at-risk children that enrich children's early cognitive and noncognitive stimulation (such as motivation, self-discipline and understanding of time). "But it is foolish," he warns, "to try to substitute for what the middle-class and upper-middle-class parents are already doing." ...

A study by Jay Belsky and colleagues published in the journal Child Development in 2007 demonstrated that parenting quality significantly predicted all developmental outcomes measured including reading, math, and vocabulary achievement into the fifth and sixth grade, making it the most important factor in a child's development. A government program that would cause any child to enjoy less quality parenting time would thus be harmful to the child's educational prospects, and one that instituted a lower age of compulsory attendance would do so on a much larger scale. ...

Over eighty percent of children enrolled in early childhood programs in the United States are in privately run programs. Allowing tax dollars to follow the child honors a parent's choice while minimizing government entanglement. Parents with the fewest options economically could choose between part-day or full-day programs, based in a home, private or government center, or even a nonprofit or faith-based provider, as families whose incomes permit them to afford these choices do already.

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