Former Kansas Gov. Kathleeen Sebelius was a big fan of universal preschool, but her departure to Washington, DC, and more importantly, the state’s fiscal situation, have put expansion plans on hold.
That’s a good thing, because universal (as in “taxpayer funded”) preschool is a lousy idea. Late last year, Maryland’s governor proposed a universal preschoool plan. Dan Lips (who, years ago, wrote a report for the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy), recently panned the idea. Here’s a description of the report:
Lips lists three key reasons why Maryland should think twice before adopting universal preschool. First, the projected benefits are based on a few small-scale programs dating back several decades. These previous benefits would likely be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate now. In fact, both Georgia and Oklahoma have instituted programs similar to the one proposed by O’Malley’s administration, and have seen lackluster results. Finally, and perhaps most compelling, the state simply cannot afford universal preschool and should not expend additional funds, as the state already subsidizes preschool for disadvantaged children. Universal preschool would be an expensive and ineffective subsidy for those middle- and upper-income families who likely could already afford to send their children to preschool. The money would be put to better use reforming and strengthening the existing public education system.
It’s been a while since I’ve written on the subject, but I came to many of the same conclusions.