Monday, May 16, 2011

For preschool choices

Universal government preschool is a policy beloved of utopian visionaries and Western Europeans, but one which conservatives should oppose on fiscal and even more serious grounds. Unsurprisingly, leading conservatives (Heritage Foundation, Eagle Forum) and libertarians (Cato Institute, Reason Foundation) do in fact oppose it.

Oklahoma has an opportunity to take a tiny step (but a step nonetheless) in the right direction this year with legislation carried by state Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Duncan) and state Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) which would require children to be a tad more mature before entering preschool. Unfortunately, despite overwhelming support in the Legislature (45-0 in the Senate, 78-16 in the House), it appears the bill could actually be killed this year. This is surprising, and very disappointing.

In any case, as I argued five years ago in The Oklahoman ("Common ground on preschool?"), if our public policy is to institutionalize small children, then parents should be empowered with more optionsa view endorsed two years ago in Oklahoma City by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman. Certain Oklahoma four-year-old already have school choice (special-needs scholarships and opportunity scholarships), but these options need to be expanded significantly (like this, for example, and this).

If we're going to have universal preschool, we deserve universal preschool choice.

No comments: