If You Like Your Preschool, You’ll Be Able to Keep-Not Again!
Advocates of universal preschool are up in arms, as Missouri lost a bid for a federal grant that would have gone toward the expansion of public preschools. Missouri was one of nine states to apply for the competitive grant, which is part of a $1 billion Obama-led initiative to expand early childhood education programs.
For universal Pre-K supporters, this was a major loss, but for Missouri taxpayers, our “failure” to get the grant is actually a win. Federal grants have a history of costing states more over time—Race to the Top is a recent education-related example.
Missouri already has doubled its expenditures toward expanding early childhood education. The Department of Economic Development (DED) made $10 million available to promote the expansion of public Pre-K programs just last year.
Preschool education is where Missourians already have the most school choice. Expanding public options will only duplicate existing services, likely shifting some students from the private to the public sector, where there is no guarantee the services will be better.
Nationally, 74 percent of four-year-olds already are enrolled in Pre-K or home-based programs. Using listings from Great Schools, the table below highlights the number of private Pre-K options versus public ones in several of Missouri’s cities.
|Frequency of Schools Offering Pre-K Programs: Private v. Public|
|City||# of Private Schools||# of Public Schools|
Research on the benefits of early childhood education has yielded mixed results. Even those studies showing significant benefits of preschool expansion touted by Gov. Jay Nixon as “proven” are subject to criticism. One comprehensive study on the effects of Head Start showed there was no long-term increase in cognitive abilities of children who participated in the early education program. Yet, Nixon gave the organization $7 million just last year.
Missouri taxpayers should not pay for services that already exist, especially if the research backing those services is shaky. There are better solutions to addressing the educational needs of children in poverty, ones that don’t include government mandates.