Saturday, October 23, 2010

A middle-class entitlement Oklahoma can't afford

Last week in The Oklahoman there was an excellent letter to the editor from Tammy Schack of Edmond. "Let's quit talking about school vouchers and begin the process of implementing them for everyone," she wrote. "The resulting competition would of necessity produce higher achievers and squelch government control." So she had me from hello. But she goes on:
Also, let's send the babies home! No child 4 years old or younger should be in an institution of formal learning, but rather at home doing the things little kids do. Public school teachers shouldn't be paid for babysitting at taxpayers' expense. If parents deem their 5-year-olds ready for school, appropriate testing should determine whether they can begin first grade. No more kindergarten! This would allow many more children to remain at home for that crucial year of maturity without feeling compelled to go with the status quo.

I agree. Heritage Foundation researcher Lindsey Burke correctly calls government preschool "an expensive and unnecessary middle-class subsidy." American Enterprise Institute scholar Douglas Besharov worries that "preschool will become a new middle-class entitlement" which shortchanges the poor.

As much as I would love to "send the babies home," a good first step would be to means-test the program. Just as it is wrong to provide Medicaid for millionaires (as The Wall Street Journal so lyrically put it), it is wrong to provide free babysitting for millionaires. At a time when Oklahoma policymakers are forced to make tough budget choices with your hard-earned money, means-testing preschool daycare is a good place to start.

(If you can stomach it, click on the chart to enlarge.)

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Brandon - I moved to Oklahoma from Mississippi and the only 4 year old programs there was Head Start which was Means Tested unless you had a special needs child that demonstrated a need for early intervention. There was NO Pre-K in Schools at all. I was blown away when I saw that Oklahoma funded that at the actual schools.