Obama’s PreSchool Free For All – Bad Idea

by MyDadBlog on April 14, 2009

in Criticism,School

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The universal Preschool movement is picking up steam since Obama took office.  Similar to the bailouts for homeowners and banks that made poor financial decisions by now transferring wealth from the responsible to the irresponsible via TARPs, TALPs and scalps, this effort is meant to provide “free” Pre-K to everyone, which will essentially destroy the one bright spot in American education that hasn’t already been wrecked by government intervention and mediocrity.

How Could Something that’s Free be Bad?

Well, nothing’s free.  It’s a coy political phrase for “taxpayer-funded”, which means you and I (actually, our children, since we are commiting generational crimes with the amount of debt we’re handing to our children).  Right now, pre-schools need to compete with each other for parents’ dollars and enrollment.  As a result of this competition, the schools do their best to hire the best educators, bring the most fun/innovative/educational environment to the children, provide the best services, assurance of safety, etc. – everything you’d want for your youngster.

When a particular teacher or administrator is underperforming, they’re shown the door.  This is American competition/capitalistic reality.  In a public school (free), there are plenty of great teachers (my wife’s one of them), but we’re all familiar with the lousy ones too and with tenure and one of the strongest unions in the nation, they’re there til they want to leave, which, given the generous pensions and benefits, usually means for a very long time.  And it’s not solely a teacher thing really.

The system is broken.  Here’s why:

When we were selecting a preschool for our children, my wife went to 6-8 different preschools, sat in on a class, interviewed the teachers, talked to the administrators and collected information on their programs, hours and costs.  She inquired into the Preschool games, crafts, lesson plans and the overall curriculum to see if it was a fit for our child.  With such diverse options, we were able to sit down and quickly eliminate the schools that failed our critical requirements (i.e. some of the schools employed rather rigid, rote memorization and drills which wouldn’t work for our little guy, perhaps others, but you need to know your kid…another school had a teacher that didn’t seem very warm or friendly which isn’t really a good personality for dealing with 3 and 4 year olds, etc.).  Next, we considered cost.  We could have paid $7500 for “the best” or more like $2500 for our #2 choice.  In taking a pragmatic approach to this level of education and weighing cost/benefit, we went with option #2 (I admit, we didn’t blow the budget to buy “the best” education at 4 years old…we’re saving those dollars now to be able to put our kids through “the best” colleges later which we view as a better ROI).

With public school, you go where you go based on where you live.  There is no competition.  As bad as a school is, kids will continue to go there and taxpayers foot the bill.  There is some accountability, but not enough.  You’re often dealing with administrators trying to fend off angry parents that want to know “what did the teacher do to provoke my child?” rather than looking inward at why their child is acting like a punk and the teacher punished them. They’re also now teaching to the test, focusing so much attention on troubled kids that some students end up board or lost in the mix and so on.

There’s always private school, but my wife’s a public school teacher and that’s a bit hypocritical.  We were both products of the public school system and consider ourselves to be successful, productive and content.  Plus, some of these private schools are charging outrageous fees, more than actual undergraduate college expenses.  I just don’t think the actual difference in performance justifies the fees.  Perhaps if money were no issue to us I’d feel differently about it, but it seems rather silly to me to pay 5 figures for a 1st grade education, on top of the taxes we’re already paying for not sending our kids to a good public school district.  We just moved to one of the better districts and pay the higher taxes to get our kids into a district that’s acceptable to us.  So, we’re voluntarily subjecting ourselves to “the system” for K-12 because the cost/benefit justifies it for the district we’re in, but for Preschool throughout the nation?  Let’s preserve something that’s already working.

What About Parents who can’t Afford Preschool?

Well, most can and those kids already go to Preschool.  And for the ones who can’t afford it, there are Head Start programs and other government funded programs already.  All this proposal would do is shift the burden of payment to all Americans to send all kids to mediocre schools.  So, why should Americans accept the current system of competition and selection of the optimal school for their children and instead settle for government-run public school hell at an even earlier age?

Is there any reason to believe that with lousy performance at the K-12 levels, the government would do any better at running preschools?

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